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Saturday, 24 August 2013

The sickening violence in the Arab territory in Africa and the Middle-East ; is there any hope for the future?

I didn’t write upon the civil wars in Syria, in Egypt and in other Arab countries in Africa and the Middle-East region for a very long time.

This was not because I didn’t care; to the contrary, I am disgusted with the sickening violence in these countries.

I grief, because of the despair in the situation of the people there, knowing that there is not a real solution. What seemingly started two years ago as a battle for a little bit more personal freedom and democracy in the Arab parts of Africa and the Middle-East, derailed in religiously/tribally/politically inspired civil wars between the numerous factions in these countries.

Factions, consisting of people with a shiite or sunnite background, or with a secular, ba'atistic, salafistic or wahabistic view at the world. Moderate and fundamentalist people, who at some time started to hate each other for religious, economic, political or historic reasons. Often these factions have a strong, centuries-old tribal background.

Many of today’s difficulties are caused by the troubled history of most of these countries, with bitter wars and foreign domination, by initially the Turks (through the Ottoman Empire) and in a later stadium the French and the British. The British and French influence in many of these countries had developed either due to the colonial years or as a consequence of the First and Second World War, in which he British and French fought together with the Arabs against the Turks in Ottoman Empire. The Turks had built an alliance with the German-Austrian axis and where therefore the enemy of Great Britain and France, while the Arabs themselves were sick and tired of the Turkish rulers and wanted to liberate their countries.

During the war in the Middle-East, the British and French military leaders made all kinds of promises to the different factions that were unitedly fighting against the Turks. Unfortunately, they broke most of these promises after the war had been won. Instead, Arab countries like Syria, Jordania, Saudi Arabia and Iraq turned into British and French mandate zones. This situation lasted until the middle of the 20th century, when the Second World War ended and many colonies and mandate zones successfully battled for independency eventually.

The haphazard way in which many Arab countries had been established by the British and French in Africa and Asia, had a devastating effect on the stability. Many borders between countries had been drawn with rulers, irrespective of historic territories and tribal areas. Countries like Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Jordania, Saudi-Arabia and Israel seemed almost ‘glued’ together, without having a mutual foundation and history. Large groups of people, like the Kurds and the Armanians unsuccessfully fought for their own countries in Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

Religious, political and tribal tensions have been omnipresent during the 20th Century and the first years of the 21st Century, but they were (violently) suppressed by the (often) ruthless leaders. These leaders acted like the cork on a Champagne bottle and kept the population quiet and under control. Just like Josip Tito did in the Balkan countries.

However, when the leaders like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Moammar Ghadaffi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt were removed and especially after people started to seriously challenge Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Pandora’s box had been finally opened. 

This was something that I already feared in March, 2011:

It is uncertain how this operation “Desert Mess” ends. If Gadhaffi wins, the whole uprising in the Middle-East:
  • might fizzle out like a damp squib or
  • might make the insurgents in other countries more ruthless and determined to win their own fight. 

However, if Gadhaffi loses his (final) war, he might find himself and his whole family back standing at gunpoint of a firing squad, for a departure in Nicolae Ceaucescu style. There will be no mercy then under his victors.

At this moment the rulers in all Arabian countries and even countries as far as China and Russia are grinding their teeth and wringing their hands about the ending of this Libyan war. Even today the number of uprisings in the Arabian countries is increasing and I think that the insurgents will be as determined as they can be, now they know that the price of their uprising can be plain civil war, with lots of people getting wounded and killed.

One thing is sure: when the Arab world comes to rest again, it will have been at the cost of many, many lives. In the meantime the process will be carefully watched by the Russian and Chinese leaders.

Needless to say that most of the aforementioned predictions were right, unfortunately. The Syrian war alone has claimed almost 100,000 lives, with as its moment of rock-bottom the poison gas attacks near Damascus of last week. 

Although the situation in Egypt is not yet as serious as in Syria, the seeds for a full religious/tribal/political conflict have been sown with the two-year reign of the Muslim Brotherhood and the subsequent military intervention there.

The most sickening thing is that every kind of intrusion by the western world can and will have numerous, undesired side-effects. It could spark a total war in the Middle-East and Africa, with eventually millions of deaths and wounded people. Regardless of who ‘wins’ and who loses in these countries, there are always large groups of people who will suffer from it, as 'old bills will be settled' by the victors: Pandora’s box is open and cannot be closed so easily.

This is the true diabolic dilemma of the current conflicts in the Middle-East and Africa: if the western world sits on its hands and does nothing about the situation, hundreds of thousands of people might be killed. However, if the western world acts again, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sends in a large military force, hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of people might be killed in the subsequent wars and military domination phase. 

Intrusion by the rest of the Arab world is out of the question too: a Sunnite invasion, powered by Qatar or Saudi Arabia, would spark a tidal wave of violence and hatred from the Shiites, who are the suppressed minorities in many Sunni countries  and / or from opposed Sunnite factions. The opposite would happen, when Iran would try to “help” the Shiite minorities or would overpower the Sunni or secular governments (Egypt) in these countries.

There is just no simple solution, which helps all opposed parties in these countries at the same time. You cannot act without making choices and every choice that you make, might have devastating results. Notice, that doing nothing is also a choice. Every political leader in the (Western) world with more than one brain cell knows this and that is the reason that most Western leaders are dragging their feet, when it comes to finding a solution. 

Suffice to say that this is the reason why China and Russia are not showing their hand of cards too, turning the Arab question in a giant game of geo-political chicken.

However, there might still be one glimmer of hope for these countries in the Arab world: it has not always been like this. There have been long times of relative peace and quiet in the Middle-East: times wherein Shiite and Sunnite Muslims, Jews and Christian people lived together in mutual acceptance and with a certain, minimal kind of respect for their mutual beliefs and cultures. 

Times when the Arab world was a melting pot of progress, science, art and architecture. A time wherein the dazzling, mathematic tile mosaiques and window dressings and the stunning buildings, mosques and castles have been created, which f.i. can still be seen in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and numerous other places in the Arab world. Times, when people were traveling from the West of Africa until the East of India, in a world that had been influenced by the Arab culture. 

Somehow, the Arab world must try to find these times back again.

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