Tuesday, 30 August 2011


The US and Europe hope that the wave of popular uprisings in Islamic nations during the first quarter of 2011 will bring friendly regimes toward the West; and friendly means that they will accept Western foreign investment under favorable terms to the multinational corporations, trade with the lowest possible tariffs, and military and foreign policy alliances designed to keep Israel strong. However, it the US permits Israel to drag its foreign policy into an ideological war with the emerging regimes, the beneficiaries will be China and Russia, and to a lesser extent EU, depending on the degree to which it follows the US lead.

If the regimes that emerge in the aftermath of the popular uprisings are Islamist or influenced by such popular and/or political movements, Western governments and businesses hope that they would be close to the Turkey's Justice & Development Party that is committed to becoming a full member of the EU. Turkey, however, has a long-standing secular tradition that goes back to the country's modern political hero Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. North Africa and the Middle East have nothing similar, although secularization cultural aspects are present in some countries more than others, and it would be best to see each country individually instead of lumping them together as 'Muslim World'.

Is it at all possible that the new regimes in the Middle East and North Africa would be closer to the theocratic models of Afghanistan's Taliban, or perhaps to Hamas and Hezbollah that are committed to adamantly opposing Israel? There is every indication so far that the influence of Islamists in each country will be greater with the new regimes. This is the case in Egypt and it seems the same will be the case in all countries that will undergo regime change in 2011.

Not all Islamists are of the same mold as al-Qaeda, and every movement has its own identity shaped in part by nationalism and the specific problems facing their country from Tunisia to Yemen. It is also true that it is very different to exist as opposition movements openly or in the underground than becoming political parties or taking power. There will definitely be a change the dynamic of any Islamist movement once it enjoys legitimacy and/or assumes a role in government.

It is wishful thinking to argue that the new regimes with Islamic and popular rebel influences will be as embracing of US foreign policy (closely linked to Israel), and welcoming of Western businesses as the old regimes. Nor can it be argued that Islamist movements lack legitimacy after all they are going through in the fight to dethrone pro-US authoritarian regimes. If Islamic movements across North Africa and Middle East emerge into political parties through open elections like Hamas and if the US refuses to accept them as legitimate as it refuses to accept Hamas, the gap between the Christian West and the Islamic nations will grow wider.

Some within the Obama team have argued that given the US strong position of supporting, at least in rhetoric, 'the people protesting in the streets', the US and the West should not fear Islamists that may become influential in the future. If regime change had taken place during the Cold War it would have been much better for the West, but today it is not necessarily good news, given the US-led global war on "Islamic terrorism' and a horrific policy record not just toward Palestinians but toward Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US and EU are counting on the fact that the new regimes will be asking for foreign aid - military and economic. The US and EU are also counting on elements within the political arena and armed forces of each country wishing to have ties with the West. It is entirely possible that a strategy of co-optation and carrot-and-stick approach may work with the new regimes, although it certainly did not work with Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban. It is also a certainty that the US and EU will be very busy trying to foment divisions within the new governments by luring some factions or parties toward the West to break the solidarity of the new regimes if those are unfriendly.

The bottom line for the new regimes will be their survival from internal and external pressures that may under extreme circumstances result in regional conflicts. There are no models other than the single capitalist one operating under varieties of regimes from far right to moderate left-center and to one-party state in the case of Communist countries like China, Cuba, N. Korea. Given that integration on a regional or global level is absolutely essential for the survival of any nation, the new regimes will have to choose between forging a strong regional bloc to moderate external pressures, or opt for global integration as semi-dependencies of the West or perhaps of China. The paths for new Islamic regimes are very narrow and do not offer nearly as much hope as it appears in terms of enjoying national sovereignty and freedom from neo-colonial trappings.

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