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Middle East Press (12 Feb 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Medieval Tactic Shaping the Syrian Civil War: New Age Islam's Selection, 12 February 2016




New Age Islam Edit Bureau

12 February 2016

The Medieval Tactic Shaping The Syrian Civil War

By Annia Ciezadlo

Afghanistan: Pity the Children

By Helena Malikyar

Hamas, Israel Digging In For another War

By Yossi Mekelberg

Establishing A State That Suits Assad

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Next U.S. President Cannot Save the Middle East

By Joyce Karam

The Never-Ending Arab Spring

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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The Medieval Tactic Shaping the Syrian Civil War

By Annia Ciezadlo

Feb 12, 2016

ON Feb. 3, the United Nations suspended talks between the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and representatives of the Syrian opposition. The Geneva talks, which were aimed at ending the five-year-old civil war, had bogged down in distrust and regional politics before they even got underway.

The UN mediator, Staffan de Mistura, hinted that the initial round of discussions collapsed because the Syrian regime refused to lift the sieges that are slowly starving hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Assad’s regime has been using starvation as a weapon – technically a war crime, when used against civilians – for the past four years.

As the war has progressed, various rebel factions, like Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and Nusra Front, have also adopted the strategy. But the vast majority of the people under siege in Syria are being starved by their own government. Today, up to a million people are being slowly and deliberately starved to death in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, many of them a stone’s throw away from grain silos full of wheat.

The Syrian opposition demanded, before participating in talks, that Assad’s regime allow food and medicine into rebel-held areas. De Mistura proposed that the talks resume by Feb. 25, once the foreign powers that back the different sides can exert pressure on their allies to make political concessions.

Assad could lift the government-imposed sieges with a wave of his hand. But his regime has been loath to give up this horrific tactic for one main reason: it works. The regime realized early in the war that instead of waging costly street battles to retake territory, it is cheaper and easier to surround an opposition-held area and starve its residents into submission.

Assad won’t abandon the sieges unless he comes under sustained international pressure. The external powers that are helping to fuel and prolong the war in Syria must exert pressure on both sides to end the sieges.

The sieges and the resulting humanitarian crisis captured the world’s attention in early January, when Syrian activists began sharing photographs from Madaya, a mountain village close to the Lebanese border. The photos showed starving children with hollow eyes and skin stretched over bulging ribs.

After six months of siege by the Syrian government and its ally, the Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah, the people of Madaya were forced to eat grass and cats to stay alive. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, at least 46 of the approximately 42,000 people trapped in Madaya are estimated to have died from starvation since December. Madaya is not the first place besieged in Syria, nor is it the only part of the country under siege.

Like the indiscriminate use of barrel bombings in civilian areas, and the use of chemical weapons, the sieges represent yet another failure by the United Nations and the international community to protect Syrian civilians. In the matter of sieges, the UN was particularly craven: a Security Council resolution requires it to maintain a list of areas it considers “under siege,” as opposed to “hard-to-reach.” But UN officials left Madaya and other besieged areas off its official list of areas under siege – even as people there were starving – most likely to placate the Syrian regime, which allows the world body to maintain its base in Damascus.

Four years ago, the Syrian military began slowly restricting food and medical access to Mouadhamiyah, a town in the ring of suburbs around Damascus known as the Ghouta. Because the military imposed the siege gradually – restricting one food item at a time, until supplies of each ran out – people did not initially realize the danger. By the time the siege became total, in November 2012, it was too late to bring in food supplies. At least 16 people starved to death. Mouadhamiyah remains under siege.

Over the next four years, the Syrian military used a strikingly similar progression of restrictions in Eastern Ghouta, in the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus, and in sections of the western city of Homs. This is no accident: Assad’s military has carefully planned and executed each siege, refining its playbook with each one.

The sieges serve a dual purpose: by using civilian deaths as leverage, they gain back rebel-held territory as cheaply as possible. And by making civilians fight for basic survival, the hunger often forces them to abandon any larger hopes or political goals. “They start to question their belief in the revolution, and even if it was worth all this suffering,” said Qusai Zakarya, the nom de guerre of an opposition activist from Mouadhamiyah, when I interviewed him two years ago. “All that they care about is to eat, no matter what the cost will be.”

In each case, the government allows guns and gunmen to infiltrate besieged areas – but not food. The dizzying patchwork of armed groups ends up indirectly helping the regime, because they make the living situation worse. The sieges allow armed groups to profit by hoarding food and selling it at inflated prices. Many anti-government militias are guilty of such profiteering, but this warlordism would not be possible without the artificial scarcity imposed by the government’s sieges in the first place.

In early January, a political deal allowed the UN to send convoys of aid to Madaya and two other areas besieged by rebel militias. They delivered 7,800 food parcels to Madaya – enough for 39,000 people, by their numbers, which consider each, parcel enough for a family of five to cover basic food needs for a month. But unless the regime permits more deliveries, those supplies will run out soon. When that happens, Madaya – just like all the other besieged parts of Syria – will go back to starvation and bitter cold.

The Syrian regime, which is extremely skilled at managing public perceptions, is counting on that. Sadly, it is right to do so: Assad’s strategy of waiting for the world’s attention to wane has succeeded for years. Two years ago, a picture of thousands of starving civilians waiting for food went viral, and briefly galvanized international attention. The result was a flurry of aid convoys and UN Security Council resolutions; but as soon as the world’s attention stopped, the aid deliveries did too.

The UN and foreign powers can restart the Geneva talks by forcing the Assad regime to end its sieges and allow humanitarian aid without restrictions to all parts of Syria. This won’t happen without sustained international pressure – not just from world leaders, but also the public. Otherwise, we’ll be looking at new photographs of starving children two years from now. The world cannot justify forgetting the starving people of Syria once again.

Annia Ciezadlo is a Beirut-based journalist who writes about food and war.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/the-medieval-tactic-shaping-the-syrian-civil-war/

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Afghanistan: Pity the Children

By Helena Malikyar

11 Feb 2016

On February 2, the Taliban proudly assumed responsibility for the assassination of Wasil Ahmad. The boy they had murdered, with two bullets to the head, was only 10 years old.

Wasil, a native of the south-central Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, had stopped at the bazaar on his way home from school to buy apples when he was shot.

While nothing justifies such a barbaric act, a host of elements contributed to rendering the fourth grader a target. Six months earlier, he had become a child soldier in the Afghan Local Police unit that was led by his uncle.

His father and a dozen of his clan members had been killed by the Taliban. When his uncle was severely injured, rage, vengeance or perhaps mere survival instinct had prompted little Wasil to join the ranks of the fighters.

Push For Afghanistan Peace Talks amid Taliban Resurgence

After the militia group successfully repelled the Taliban offensive, the district police chief lionised Wasil and celebrated his bravery. His photos were circulated in the social media.

Child Combatants

In the absence of exact figures, reports on Afghan child combatants rely on anecdotes and witness accounts. On the government side, it is believed that the problem is especially pronounced in the government-sanctioned and US-funded ALP militia forces.

The phenomenon appears to be more widely present among terrorist organisations. Teenage students of religious madrasas, mostly in Pakistan, comprise the bulk of Taliban and Haqqani Network’s foot soldiers. Children are also used as suicide bombers.

A greater number of children are used by both sides as cooks, servants and errand boys, positions that all international legal instruments against the use of children in combat include in their definition of "child soldier".

It was during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s that children began to fall victim to war and its multidimensional miseries.

Conflict, poverty, flawed policies and the dismal application of the rule of law kill Afghan children in droves on a daily basis. Each year, hundreds of children die in armed hostilities, air strikes, suicide attacks, car bombs, or land mines.

It was during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s that children began to fall victim to war and its multidimensional miseries. The indiscriminate bombing of villages, disappearance of children from high schools for suspicion of ties with the resistance movement and forced conscriptions on both sides of the war were common.

It is generally believed that about 50,000 children, mostly orphans, were sent to the Soviet Union in the 1980s to be indoctrinated in Marxism.

The ordeals that Afghan children endured in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran during the Afghan-Soviet war are well documented in various human rights and humanitarian assistance organisations' reports.

Deprivations

The mujahidin victory and their subsequent infighting from 1992 to 1996 lowered the bar further. Children had to join militias of various fighting factions, either forcefully or simply to earn a loaf of bread for their families.

The advent of the Taliban in the mid-1990s brought a host of new deprivations. Playing sports became prohibited. Girls could no longer attend school. Music was declared sinful.

The US intervention at the end of 2001 revived hope for a better future. The initial US promise of nation-building and a Marshall Plan-style of reconstruction meant that if an entire generation of Afghans had lost their childhood, the millennial generation would grow up in a better environment.

To be fair, there has been some improvement in the predicament of Afghan children. But 14 years of international presence and billions of dollars in aid should have yielded much better results.

Conflict in the past decade has caused about 28,000 civilian deaths and more than 100,000 injuries. Considering that nearly 70 percent of the Afghan population is under the age of 25, this demographic has been affected significantly.

Prospects for those who don't die in conflict are not too promising, either.

About 100,000 are begging in the streets of Kabul alone, mostly forced to deliver their day's earnings to petty urban gangs.

Six million school-age children are engaged in labour. About 100,000 are begging in the streets of Kabul alone, mostly forced to deliver their day's earnings to petty urban gangs. Abject poverty compels many parents to consent.

The government and international donors boast about eight million children being registered in schools. In fact, due to poverty and deteriorating security conditions, about 40 percent of primary school-aged children are not attending school.

Girls are forced into marriages, at times in their pre-teen years, in exchange for a bride price or to settle debts that the father is unable to pay otherwise. The recent phenomenon of “opium brides” involves farmers coerced to give their daughters to local drug barons.

There has been a surge of abductions and child trafficking since 2014. Afghans are convinced that the impunity enjoyed by kidnappers and traffickers is due to the involvement of influential individuals and security forces in this lucrative business.

Domestic Servitude

Abducted children are used in forced labour or domestic servitude, either inside the country or in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Some are recruited in terrorist organisations and others are sold for commercial sexual use. The practice of "Bacha Bazi" (boy play) has expanded exponentially with the rise of the new affluent elite.

Three decades of war have left Afghans as a nation physically and psychologically disabled. It is estimated that children comprise half of the handicapped population.

One in 10 children dies before reaching their fifth birthday; undernutrition is at 55 percent, resulting in a high number of stunted children.

For every 100,000 Afghans there exist 0.01 mental health specialists. Child psychiatric services are non-existent. In the absence of any psychological evaluation, much less treatment of children, one can only guess the extent of the damage.

But, against staggering odds, Afghan children continue to be hopeful. They still revel in an ice cream, wish for a bicycle and dream about becoming a doctor or a football player. They deserve a childhood.

Helena Malikyar is an Afghan political analyst and historian.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/02/afghanistan-pity-children-160210082008267.html

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Hamas, Israel Digging In For another War

By Yossi Mekelberg

11 February 2016

Since the end of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Aug. 2014, there has been a deceptive appearance of calm along the border between Israel and Gaza. It took the collapse of Hamas-dug tunnels to redirect attention back to the fragility and volatility of relations between the militant Islamic movement that rules Gaza, and the Jewish state that blockades it.

Most observers would agree that neither side is interested or would benefit from another round of violence. However, there is genuine fear that internal political dynamics, an unforeseen trigger or a mere miscalculation might lead to a new flare-up.

Inflicting daily misery on Gazans is a combination of Israeli punishment for electing Hamas, and an unfounded belief that it will lead to a popular uprising against the current government

The collapse of the tunnels, claiming the lives of at least nine Palestinians, unleashed predictable and provocative rhetoric from both sides. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said the organization had rebuilt its tunnels “deep into the territory occupied in 1948.”

In contrast to Zahar, who is known for his uncompromising approach toward Israel, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya emphasized the defensive nature of the tunnels in a speech during the funeral of two of the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was explicit in threatening that any attack via Hamas’s cross-border tunnels would lead to worse retaliation than in 2014.

Gaza Blockade

Gaza is still reeling from the destruction inflicted on it by Israel during Operation Protective Edge. From the three available crossings into the enclave, goods are only passing through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. Erez, the other Israeli crossing, and Rafah, the passage to Egypt, are restricted to movement of people, but in both cases in a very limited way.

This, in addition to air and sea blockades, considerably limit the Hamas government’s ability to provide for its citizens. This has resulted in a growing malaise among ordinary Gazans. In a society in which more than 40 percent of its population is unemployed, there is only a few hours a day of electricity, and drinking water is in short supply, agitation and radicalization are almost inevitable. This situation weakens the hands of those within the Hamas leadership who want to avoid a direct clash with Israel.

Moreover, following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the encirclement of Gaza and the political isolation of Hamas have been exacerbated. In the past, taxing commodities coming from Egypt via the Rafah tunnels was one of the main sources of income for the Gazan government, but this has decreased significantly.

Egypt has been flooding these tunnels, increasing the shortage of basic commodities and depriving Hamas of income. Adding insult to injury, an Israeli minister and close political ally of Netanyahu, Yuval Steinitz, publicly said the flooding of the tunnels was at Israel’s request.

Strategic Calculations

Additional pressure to break the deadlock by resuming armed confrontation with Israel is encouraged by Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Beyond what might be an instinctive tendency toward the use of military force, it is also a reaction to deteriorating conditions on the ground, and not wanting to be left out when there are attacks on Israelis by Palestinians in the West Bank.

Hamas’s military leadership might be tempted to defy its political one, while ignoring the tragic outcome of past experiences of armed clashes with very little political gain. Without at least some improvement in living conditions in Gaza, those who push for armed struggle are gaining the upper hand.

On the Israeli side, the government and security establishment have been toying with two contradictory approaches. One approach maintains that as long as Hamas is in power in Gaza, sustaining tight control is imperative for Israeli security. Inflicting daily misery on Gazans is a combination of Israeli punishment for electing Hamas, and an unfounded belief that it will lead to a popular uprising against the current government.

The other approach argues that only by relieving part of the strangulation of Gaza, and allowing economic activity and some normality, will the motivation to support extremism and conflict be reduced sufficiently. In Israel’s divided government - which includes strong, extreme right-wing elements - the security paradigm of exerting pressure on Gaza dominates.

More commodities are entering Gaza these days than for a long time, but there is a long list of products that are regarded as having dual military and civilian use, and are prohibited. Commodities classified as dual use do not necessarily have an obvious military application. The list of prohibited items seems arbitrary, and is deeply damaging for the Gazan economy.

Tunnels and militancy in Gaza are symptomatic of the situation there, one that is the result of a lack of diplomatic solution, and is aggravated by Israeli and Egyptian policies. One should not belittle the adverse contribution of Hamas and other militant groups in the deterioration of Gaza to its present state. However, policies that only punish the Gazan people strengthen hardliners within the organization, and the more extreme elements outside it.

Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues .

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/02/11/Hamas-Israel-digging-in-for-another-war.html

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Establishing a State That Suits Assad

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

11 February 2016

U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura’s recent statement blaming the Syrian regime (I can't find any such statement) for obstructing negotiations was not as strong as it should have been, considering the murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

His statements will also not ease shock over attempts to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until his term ends in the spring of 2018. Keeping Assad in power negates the need for negotiations. He should be tried for war crimes, not rewarded by keeping him in power under a U.N. flag.

In 2013, the Syrian people were told to wait a year until Assad finished his presidential term, in order to achieve change constitutionally and for him to save face. When the time came, he forged elections to become president again, and resumed his policy of murder and displacement. Now, the plan is to keep him in power until the spring of 2018.

Russia and Iran are trying to establish a state whose ethnic components suit the capabilities of Assad, who belongs to a sect that only constitutes 10 percent of the population.

The Syrian opposition was asked to accept maintaining the regime in order to avoid state collapse and not repeat the American mistake in Iraq. The opposition said it was willing to participate in a unity government but without Assad. Then it was told to communicate and negotiate with the Russians to end the crisis. The opposition went to Moscow but heard only threats. One of the participants commented: “What is left in Syria for us to fear?”

When Washington announced its plan to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it set the opposition’s help as a condition for political and military support. The opposition accepted, but Washington did not oppose Russian or Iranian military intervention against moderate rebels. The two alliances’ only concern is how to organize military operations in order to prevent accidents between them.

The only thing Syrians gained from military operations against ISIS were Russian attacks on civilian areas, and an increase in Western aid in the form of blankets and food supplies to refugees. This series of false promises will worsen the humanitarian tragedy and facilitate the spread of terrorism.

Roots of Conflict

The Syrian crisis stands on its own, and is not part of the Arab-Iranian, Sunni-Shiite or Russian-American struggles. This is not to deny that Syria has become an arena for multiple conflicts, but the roots of the crisis are local.

The Assad regime is a product of the Cold War, and was affiliated with the Soviets. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it could neither change nor develop. Its situation became more difficult after the regime’s founder Hafez al-Assad died in 2000.

His son Bashar took over, failed to manage the state, and in 2011 confronted a popular uprising. The Arab-Iranian and sectarian struggles are direct repercussions of the regime’s collapse, not the reason for revolting against it.

In order to keep Assad in power, Russia and Iran have killed more than 300,000 people, displaced 12 million and destroyed dozens of cities. They are now trying to establish a state whose ethnic components suit the capabilities of Assad, who belongs to a sect that only constitutes 10 percent of the population. What madness is that? How can the region’s governments accept to remain silent over this farce and dangerous tragedy?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/02/11/Establishing-a-state-that-suits-Assad.html

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Next U.S. President Cannot Save The Middle East

By Joyce Karam

11 February 2016

It is rather tempting to consider the 2016 U.S. elections as a pivotal turning point for the Middle East and its many problems. Truth is, the scope of these crisis, and the platform of the different U.S. candidates suggest that while more leadership and engagement could alleviate the suffering, resolving the conflicts is not contingent on the U.S. Presidency.

If the last decade and a half offers any clue on the Middle East, it is that no one actor has full command over any one situation. Even when the U.S. starts the fire as in the case of the Iraq war in 2003, it quickly lost control over the post-war dynamic. However, finding the right balance between the very assertive approach of George W. Bush and the very reluctant Presidency of Barack Obama will be the biggest challenge of the next U.S. President as he or she tries to restore American influence and clout in the Middle East.

Campaign Promises Vs. Reality

The 2016 campaign has already broken the record of promises to voters on the domestic and foreign policy turfs. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is promising wins and victories all-overs the Middle East, against ISIS, Iran, Al-Qaeda and in blocking refugees. Other rivals are pledging to “rip the Iranian deal to shreds” or create fantasy coalitions against ISIS with Iran and Arab countries on the same team.

The next resident of the White House, whether he or she is a Republican or Democrat or Independent, will be confronted with tighter limitations on U.S. influence and a more defiant Middle East.

It is not uncommon, however, for U.S. candidates to make popular promises on the campaign trail and then execute a different set of policies while in the oval office. After all, it was Bush in 2000 who ran on anti-nation building platform, and ended up taking on the most expensive nation-building project for the U.S. in the Middle East. Obama for his part has promised to end U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, but was forced to change course, and extend U.S. presence to counter the Taliban. When it comes to breaking free from the Iran deal, it is worth noting that the next President will be bound with UN resolutions and international commitments of his predecessor.

In the context of Middle East conflicts, there are no magic wand, or at the very least clear roadmaps from the candidates how to move forward. While every candidate has called for more strikes against ISIS, only the Republican rivals Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, are supporting establishing safe zones in Syria. But even if those ideas are implemented when they come to office, they don’t promise an end to the conflict.

14 years since the war in Iraq, and five of heavy bombardment in Syria, have shattered those states to a point of no return before the conflict. The central government in Baghdad has little to no control over what happens in Basra, or Mosul or Kurdistan. This reality is also copied in Syria and Libya, where militias and outside actors are dictating the rules of the game.

A Changed Regional Landscape

The regional destabilization was abetted by lack of U.S. leadership, and its intensification has very much constrained U.S. policy and forced a decline in Washington’s role and ability to affect the Middle East landscape.

From the wars in Yemen, and Syria, the aftermath of intervention in Libya, the U.S. is increasingly finding itself reacting to events rather than having the ability to change them. This is also due in part to mistakes that the U.S. has inflicted upon itself in Iraq, a trust gap with the governments in the region, and a changed dynamic in these countries and regionally that Washington has little control over.

Today, regional countries from Iran to Turkey to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have grown more confident in their ability to project power regionally and fill the void left by the American withdrawal in Iraq in 2011, and the decline of traditional strong state actors such as Syria and Egypt. This environment has triggered GCC action in Yemen, and airstrikes conducted by UAE and Egypt in Libya. It has also prompted direct entry for Turkey in Northern Iraq, and more chatter about a ground operation in Syria. As important, is that these events have happened despite U.S. objection at times, and without direct military involvement or consultation with Washington.

In that lens, the future U.S. President will inherit a more defiant and stubborn regional dynamic, where allies and foes alike are showing readiness to act independently without referring to Washington. Russia’s intervention in Syria, and China’s increasing economic clout in the region are also part of this crowded landscape that overlooks the U.S. role.

The next resident of the White House, whether he or she is a Republican or Democrat or Independent, will be confronted with tighter limitations on U.S. influence and a more defiant Middle East. While saving the region is not in the U.S. reach at the moment, restoring leadership and mitigating the suffering should be pursued if Washington were to restore any of its lost credibility in the region.

Joyce Karam is the Washington Correspondent for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/2016/02/11/Next-U-S-President-cannot-save-the-Middle-East.html

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The Never-Ending Arab Spring

By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

11 February 2016

The term “spring” is used to describe a popular uprising against a political system. It is mainly used in Europe. In the recent history of mankind, the term was used to mark a period of a few months in 1968 when political protests in then Czechoslovakia erupted. It was called the Prague Spring. However, the Soviet Union crushed the protests with its invasion of the country and all intended reforms were rolled back.

We all know the rest of the story. We all are aware of the fact that like any other political uprising, the Prague Spring lasted a few months but it is beyond comprehension that the so-called Arab Spring appears to be never ending. It seems as if somebody has pushed the Arab world into a bottomless pit of violence and unrest. These so-called revolutions started jolting the region around five years ago and its aftershocks continue to shake the Arab world until today — using the term aftershock maybe an understatement because truth of the matter is that the unrest is increasing in its intensity and morphing into a global threat.

This so-called Arab Spring began on Dec. 18, 2010. It all began in Tunisia in a very dramatic manner and subsequently took Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria almost by surprise. The winds of that so-called change not only swept across the Arab world but also threatened the entire world. During these five years, the world has witnessed the emergence of the biggest threat to the regional and global security and stability.

Since the start of the Arab Spring many countries across the Arab world have seen riots, violent and peaceful demonstrations and full-scale civil wars. Arab Spring was supposed to bring about political and social change in a country. It was meant to usher in a new era of democracy, social equality, prosperity and an end to endemic corruption. But, as it turned out, the countries that were plagued with the Arab Spring saw more corruption, more social inequality and much more violence. So, who is really to blame?

Ironically, many Arab men of letters blame others for the beginning of the Arab Spring or for its perceived failures. The usual suspects are the Americans, Europeans, Israelis and practically everyone other than the inhabitants of those countries that were hit by those revolutions calling for a change. As the Arab Spring gathered momentum, it turned out that instead of working for the establishment of a democratic political order, the forces or players calling for a change in the system got involved in a game of revenge and counter-revenge. It turned out that the masses in many Arab countries didn’t only have negative feelings toward their leaders; they had no feelings for each other. People in most of the Arab countries are not homogenized and they had never been. Many of them were just waiting for the right moment to burst and the general situation in these Arab countries didn’t help. Wealth was not distributed justly. The divide between the haves and the have nots was getting deeper. Arab Spring was a movement in waiting but few expected it to be that violence with no end in sight.

In the past few years, the region saw the rise of the most atrocious terrorist organizations and saw open interventions by foreign powers. The destruction of this magnitude and atrocities of this nature are never seen before anywhere in the world. Atrocities committed by and among people who used to be friends and neighbours. The more killings and atrocities, there will be bigger scars that may take decades to heal.

Now, it is time for all the warring sides to set their personal interests aside and to give priority to the wellbeing of their respective countries and their people. We are seeing countries that are swept by the Arab Spring sinking into chaos that will eventually end but after many more casualties. What is more, the world saw the most extensive destruction of places of worship, archaeological sites and destruction of the environment.

Lands in Syria will need years to be cleared from left over ammunition and people in Iraq are holding their breath regarding the possible collapse of the Mosul Dam that could kill many people and destroy fertile lands in addition to the wastage of huge amount of water that many countries in the Arab world are struggling to get and even paying billions of dollars to produce through desalination plants. In other words, the Arab Spring is not only pushing many of the Arab countries backward but it is also depriving the area from essential assets and commodities. Arab world has many riches and wealth and we didn’t need an Arab Spring to utilize these assets. Arab Spring was not about democracy and social equality it was all about revenge. People in the region are growing tired of the ongoing chaos, atrocities and killings. And countries in the area have become unsafe due to foreign interventions. We must seek ways to end this cycle of violence.

Source: arabnews.com/columns/news/878661

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