Monday, 21 November 2011


In several postings throughout spring and summer 2011 (see the postings entitled: Western co-optation of Arab Revolts - April 2011; Middle East: mid-2011 Assessment of Arab Revolts, June 2011), I emphasized that the Arab revolts would not necessarily result in regimes that are accountable to their own people, but more likely to Western governments and business interests.

On 19 November 2011, violence erupted in Egypt and the rebels are claiming that in essence the Arab Spring revolt did not result in a new regime that represents the people, but new faces that represent the old policies. As guarantor of the old institutional structure and policies, the Egyptian military remains a major obstacle to free and open elections similar to those that took place in Tunisia and returned a parliamentary system.

But even in Tunisia where the two leftist political parties won almost as many seats in the Chamber as the Islamist Ennahda party, the government remains very committed to close economic and political ties to France and EU. Unlike Egypt and Algeria where the military historically has played a role in both politics and business - protecting their interests - the Tunisian military does not have such inordinate influence in politics and business, so the transition to a semblance of political power sharing under parliamentary rule was smooth so far.

This does not mean however, that even Tunisia with its relatively smooth transition will not suffer social unrest like Egypt. High ranking Tunisian military officers have been cooperating with the US and NATO; Tunisia has taken part in a number of US-NATO operations, and it has provided NATO ships to use its port facilities. If a segment of the population is convinced that the new regime is a Western puppet and serves a small segment of the political and business elites, and that the country is as much a Western satellite after deposed dictator Ben Ali as during his regime, there will be problems in Tunisia.

Yemen, which is more like Egypt and Algeria in terms of the military's role in the political and business arena, remains extremely volatile, with the dictator-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh insisting that he will only hand power to the military. This signals that there will be no real change in the political arena, and that Yemen will remain under the aegis of the US and Saudi Arabia, thus the revolution in Yemen is likely to continue.

Meanwhile, the US and EU hardly make any noise about Yemen, Kuwait, or any of the Gulf states, especially Bahrain, a major US satellite, where grass roots movements demand democratization; a concept that means the countries become as free of Western imperialism as their power leverage permits. The only focus of the US is on Iran and Syria, two countries that the US and EU want to see regime changes so that both come under pro-Western influence and become more closely integrated economically, militarily and politically with the West. One-time ally Turkey would love for the rebel movement in Syria to succeed, for it would make Ankara even stronger in the region to compete with Iran for regional hegemony.

Can we conclude that the US and EU are interested in 'freedom and democracy' in the Islamic countries, given what has taken place so far?  Of course, there are those who argue that the real struggle is not between pro-democracy elements and authoritarian in the dress of the military in Egypt, but between the military and Islamists, a term that in the West is not equated with democracy because it is not secular and pro-West.

Maybe the EU countries and US are indeed interested in democratizing the Islamic countries for no other reason than to see democracy thrive. Does Libya now have a democracy, or is it about to be reduced into a much more dependent Western satellite than it has ever been since independence? If only the Libyan rebels fighting in the streets knew that their country's future rests as a Western semi-colony, with lower living standards and lack of sovereignty? Maybe there has been no covert operational activity involving CIA and other intelligence agencies, no political, military or economic agenda, no geopolitics or balance of power issues at all on the part of the US and its EU partners. (see my posting entitled: CIA and the Arab Revolts - February 2011).

Maybe governments in the West just love to spread freedom and democracy around the world, just as they did during the Cold War. Thus far, all evidence shows that the West has its own agenda that includes plans of how to exert political, military and economic hegemony in the Middle East. This is exactly what the West has been doing for the last 100 years, from WWI when the Allies promised Arabs freedom if they fought against the Ottoman Empire and its German allies, to the formation of the Mandate system, to the creation of the state of Israel at the expense of Palestinians, and to the numerous wars in the post-WWII era where the West ardently defended Israel against the Arabs, to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the recent NATO bombing of Libya. is there a single instance of evidence, just one piece of evidence that the West has ever acted to fulfill the pledge that it stated publicly, namely, to deliver freedom and democracy to the Islamic countries?

 Freedom and Democracy are not cell phones or weapons that they can be handed over to a country. The people in the countries where revolts have taken place and are currently unfolding have a very different sense of what they want for themselves and what the US and EU want for their countries. Kipling's "White Man's Burden" notwithstanding, in the history of Arab-Western relations dating back to the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji of 1774, is there even a single instance where any Western nation has acted in any manner other than self-interest to the detriment of the Islamic country that the Western nation claimed it wished to help democratize?

Do Islamic countries need Lawrence of Arabia-style PR, only to discover that in the end they must surrender sovereignty to the West? Why would there be a change in Western policies today when Western nations are on the economic warpath against their own citizens with detrimental fiscal and social policies? Should any rebel die or be injured in the Middle East and North Africa under the illusion that the new regime that will replace the existing authoritarian one will not be but a puppet of the West?

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