Their Majesties and Highnesses Hijacked the Arab Spring

Article Summary
Gulf monarchs have seized on the worsening crisis in Syria as an opportunity to reassert their regional leadership, argues Talal Salman. Both through the Arab League and on the international stage, they are attempting to claim the moral highground - despite the fact that they were once allies of the Syrian regime. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Safir and an Arab nationalist.

Through the bloody campaign [it has launched] against its opponents - which has expanded across most of Syria and dragged on for close to a year, leaving thousands of casualties and enormous devastation to the community and the built environment in its wake - the Syrian regime has provided the Arab monarchies with the chance to ride the wave of the “Arab Spring” and claim to be the leaders of the nation today, and [those] qualified to lead it in the future.
The absence of troubled Egypt, the pale role of Algeria, and Iraq’s preoccupation with tackling the devastating effects of [Saddam Hussein’s] era of tyranny - which had opened the door to the US occupation - cleared the way for a once-marginal institution, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to assume a leading role [in regional politics]. It was backed by the failure of the [Arab] republics-turned-fiefdoms and their leaders (lest we forget Libya and Yemen), the trumpeted support of the US, European encouragement, and a new alliance with the Islamic rulers of Turkey.

As a result, the [Arab] kingdoms, sultanates, and emirates built the “Arab Spring” horse and moved forward to restore their decision-making position at this critical period in the history of the Arab world. And it was only normal for [the GCC states] - which have become a sectarian majority - to gain the upper hand at the Arab League.

Magically, the Arab Spring became “His Royal Highness” [clad] in a mottled keffiya [Islamic headdress] and golden headband. [Also], Washington became [the Arab Spring’s] “center”, and the UN Security Council in New York its “nationalistic” reference.

Their Majesties and Highnesses abandoned their longtime friends and childhood companions, and denied their own “brothers”. They went so far as to take the [Syrian conflict] to the International Criminal Court, describing [Syrian officials] as “killers” and “opponents of the people’s will”. They spoke of [the Syrian regime’s] lack of faith in democracy, saying: They do not [hold] elections, nor recognize them as a means for expressing the people’s will. The [Arab monarchs] added: They are killers who kill their own citizens!

They denied the very long partnership and close friendship they shared with the [Syrian regime] and the shameful position they [the GCC states] used to be in. They [also denied] the fact that they used to learn from [the regime] and regard it as a model of higher wisdom and savvy in the art of leadership. They once said about [the Syrian officials]: They are wizards. [Now,] they have transformed that pitiable country into a hive of international [political activity].

It was also natural for [the GCC states to hijack] the Arab Spring and turn it into the autumn of the [Arab] republics.

The Arab Spring came earlier than expected, and without warning. It has [now] turned against [the Arab] youth, who initiated it in the quest for change. The patriots, Arabists, and progressives have today become part of the past. [Instead], those who had [always] been characterized as reactionaries who ruled by the sword have advanced to hold their erstwhile allies to account, those who they used to fear and deceive, and to whom they had sent their sons to learn the “art of politics”.

The [Arab monarchs] ruling in the name of Islam have [suddenly] realized that [the Arab leaders] who were brought down by revolutions or have faced uprisings are nothing but infidels, atheists, and apostates who deserve to be punished.

The Salafists - who are seizing the future by [invoking] the past - have converged with those promoting the [idea of] religious [Islamic] states being [able to provide] a better future.

The moment has come to avenge the heresy of Arabism introduced to us by the West: Those against whom the masses had revolted have ruled for [too] long. The time has come to fold the flag of Arabism and for the rule of true religion [Islam] to resume its historic course.

Instead of isolation, [why not] move toward Islamic unity?

And instead of [achieving] Muslim unity, the [Muslims] must be classified into sects. Thus, the decision would be up to the overwhelming majority. Such a call would not be [viewed] as sedition. It [would rather be considered] a rectification of the course of history, [intended] to mend what had been severed.

Thus [Al-Qaeda leader] Ayman al-Zawahiri would find a legitimate place [for himself] within the Arab Spring.

“Palestine, [however, has no right] to a Spring,” [say the Arab monarchs]. “That issue is too complicated and will bring us into a conflict with that which [we are] not supposed to conflict with. And [in any case], what is wrong with Israel benefiting from the proposal of [establishing] religious states [in the Arab region]? [After all], the Jews are people of the Book as well, and they are the forerunners of [ Abrahamic] religion… [Besides], God’s lands are vast and can accommodate the faithful in many countries.

“It is high time that priority is returned to its rightful owners: We the kings, and the sons of kings; we are those most entitled to rule... we are even sole possessors of that right.  The Arab League can remain at our service. Are we not the majority? Are you [the people] not demanding democracy [i.e. majority rule]? Then, the right to lead [the region] is ours.”

It is a comprehensive monarchical attack, and it is taking place as we speak. Leave the decision to the decision-makers, those who are capable of implementing it.

[Actually], it is a comprehensive counter-attack to the [Arab protest] “squares” and the possibilities of change whose realization seemed imminent in most parts of the great Arab nation.

It is necessary to divide the Arabs, as a nation. It is also necessary to divide the [Arab] peoples into religions and sects. Under the fluttering banner of religion, the retrograde rulers of the Arab world converge with the progressive rulers of Turkey. [Today], states that are not even real states can determine the fate of peoples who had contributed to the making of history.

Yesterday, the Arab League appeared alien to itself and to its role: It confirmed the cancellation of its [observer] mission [in Syria] - which was mostly symbolic. The [main] issue [here] is not [seeking] to condemn the Syrian regime or expose its unjustified cruelty in dealing with its patient people, nor its direct responsibility for the great damage brought upon Syria, its state and its role.

The issue is much more serious than that: The will to change has been seized from the Arab world. The concept of “intifada” [uprising] has been distorted, thus allowing the forces most hostile to change to claim “fatherhood” [of the popular uprisings] and to derail its original course, attempting to transform it into [a provocation of] sedition between Muslims [of different sects].

That Their Majesties and Highnesses are today the ones leading the movement towards change [inspired by] the Arab Spring is not insignificant.

It is enough to look at the image embodied by the Arab League Council’s meeting [held] outside its official headquarters in Cairo yesterday to see who makes the decisions on Arab affairs in general.

The Arab League has become a “legal analyst” of international intervention on behalf of the UN Security Council. If [the UNSC] rejects [military intervention], [the league] will accuse it of betraying [the league’s] trust and [abandoning the UN’s] “noble mission” to “protect” the Arab Spring - as it did in Libya.

And the Syrian regime is very much to blame [for this state of affairs]. 

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