Foreign Intervention Frustrates Arab Revolutionary Progress

Article Summary
The price of change across the Arab world is often steeper and more complex than it first appears, argues Talal Salman. He examines the hypocrisy behind the various movements' stalling of the revolutions’ momentum, and points out that the US has delegated the support of the Syrian opposition to extremist leaderships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The revolutionary momentum of the squares has been depleted by continual straying from the revolution’s primary goals, on which identities have been molded at a time of turmoil. Revolutionaries' inability to build on the sequential Arab uprisings by those oppressed by dictatorial regimes has neutralized the revolutionary fervor. These factors have shaken the the millions who had gathered in protest in Arab squares and who defied the bloody repression in the quest for change and a better future.
More than a year and a half after the eruption of the uprisings, the Arabs are straying off the revolutionary course. Tunisia is in chaos, which may soon lead to overwhelming anarchy. Tunisia is attempting to safeguard the social progress achieved by the Salafist “missionaries” who are promoting the hijab and Sharia law — warning signs of regression.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) crossed the line by falsifying the identities of those present in the revolutionary square. Now, the group is set to reach the presidency. Their organizational and financial capabilities — obtained from internal and external forces — enabled them to win the elections and take control of decision-making processes against a chaotic backdrop of rebels lacking an agenda, party or front that would make them credible candidates. Thus, the oldest country in the Arab East appears poised to fall — along with all of its constitutional institutions including the parliament, the Shura Council and the presidency — into the hands of the Islamists. The latter act with a spirit of revenge resulting from a history of persecution on the part of the state. This approach spells doom for the future and will open the door to civil war. Here, the complicity of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with the Islamists cannot be ignored. The council has accepted the US’ half-hearted reassurances that the MB does not threaten this new version of English-speaking Islamic democracy.

Libya — which was liberated from its own revolution by NATO forces — is currently lost in discussions over federal or central governments while it faces a variety of Islamic groups, each with divergent histories, as well as a tribal and ethnic reawakening. Although this threatens to bring about a civil war that might destroy the state, it will surely not threaten to disrupt the flow of oil to those who believe they are more worthy of it than its owners. They believe that without them, the oil would have vanished in the desert sands.

In Lebanon, the ultra-sectarian counter-revolutionaries — who did not hesitate to serve the Israeli occupation and follow in its footsteps by executing the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees — have claimed to be the fathers of the “Arab Spring.” These actors have all opened various ceremonies, sectarian in their essence and objectives, with hypocritical speeches about the Arab Spring and their alleged role in it. They also invited a slew of unknown figures from across the Arab world to give speeches at their partisan ceremonies on behalf of the revolutionaries, freedom fighters and martyrs who initiated the glorious intifadas (uprisings) in their home countries — one of the main goals of which was to fight sectarianism and those who adhere to it.

Syria is a different story. The popular protest movement has not yet reached a level that would enable it to overthrow the regime. This is especially so since those with the loudest voices among the top leadership of the Kharijites (Muslims who believe in the right to revolt against rulers) live abroad. In consequence, those who call themselves the “Friends of Syria” have held conferences in several countries (over eighty countries and international organizations were gathered in Turkey) on behalf of the Syrian people. The number of keffiyehs worn by the Gulf representatives present at the conference — who are distressed over their failure to bring down the Syrian regime even by force of arms — could not conceal the predominance of the external forces over the internal ones, whether in their organization, financing, slogans or promises of generous rewards to each soldier who defects and joins the opposition and its supposed leadership, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose actions its sponsors have been unable to control. On the other hand, calls were made for the civilian “rebels” to be rewarded with lavish positions in the new government.

The Syrian opposition remaining in the country has continued to express the people’s determination to achieve the radical reform of an archaic and outdated dictatorial regime. It has endured harsh confrontation and a lack of support on both the Arab and international levels. However, it continues to represent the conscience of Syrians keen to protect their country from the dangers of sedition and civil war.

At the Istanbul conference, only Egypt spoke rationally and out of concern for Syria — the country and its people. Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr said that “security in Syria is part and parcel of Egyptian national security,” and that “Egypt's commitment to finding an exit to the Syrian crisis is as much a strategic necessity as it is a moral duty, dictated by nationalist solidarity with the partners of Arabism and their common destiny in a fraternal Syria.”

Away from the Istanbul conference, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki voiced his consternation regarding the situation in Syria, condemning Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular for supporting an arming of the Syrian opposition abroad instead of trying to ease tensions. He called for efforts to be made to protect the state and the unity of the Syrian people in order to protect their national unity, and the political entities in the neighborhood — namely Iraq — from disintegration and endless civil wars.

Interestingly enough, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the least extreme participant at the conference, which was seen by its Turkish organizers as Clinton’s “endorsement” of their positions. Mrs Clinton announced that her country — the richest in the universe — will provide the Syrian opposition with only $12 million. In this way she left it up to the extremist oil-rich leaderships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to provide the bulk of the expenses for the war on Syria in support of the oppositions distributed around world capitals. As a result, the people of Syria will be left to pay the price of “Syria’s liberation,” after which the “leaders” will arrive in private planes — as was the case in Iraq after the US occupation — to undertake the task of building the new state. They will do so under the guidance of their Highnesses, who practice a form of nomadic democracy already well known to the nationals of those golden lands, particularly Bahrain.

The Arab peoples are going through a difficult transitional period. They seek to liberate themselves from the dictatorial regimes who for decades had them running scared at the prospect of change and who divided them upon sectarian lines. Eventually, “the people” lost their unity in the face of factors which should have been the cause of change.

Certainly, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to nominate their deputy Secretary-General to the presidency will instill fear in the hearts of all who aspire to democratic change and a modern state in the world’s oldest country, which was the first Arab country to draft a constitution governing civil-society relations.

In contrast, blunt foreign intervention into Syria’s internal affairs will damage the opposition’s integrity and offer the regime free endorsement. This will prompt it to react cruelly to the legitimate demands of the people. This is a chance that the Syrian people have paid for dearly with their blood and their country’s resources through a long history of struggle. These people deserve to build a better future for themselves, as do the rest of the Arab citizens in their respective homelands.

Is this simply the price of change? Perhaps. However, the intervention of other states destroys any effort aimed at real change, through popular struggle, and undermines the interests and future of the countries in which it is carried out.

As long as foreign states are able to influence the transitional phase, the Arab peoples will have to wait a long time for a better future.

This is the logic of the desire for change.

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