As most of America moves onto domestic news coverage of Hurricane Irene, the poor economy, Beyonce’s pregnancy, and the latest line up for Dancing With the Stars, things in the Middle East and North Africa have grown increasingly unstable and uncertain. In North Africa alone, the previously authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya have fallen only to be replaced with what? In Tunisia, the peaceful overthrow of the Ben Ali regime has led to a shaky government with many of the previous regime’s power brokers still in positions of influence and authority and little or no economic opportunity.
Next went Egypt and its president Hosni Mubarak, by far the biggest shoe to drop. Mubarak’s ouster has had significant effects on the region not least of which is the rise of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood and the even more fundamentalist Salafist movement closely tied to Al-Qaeda and its dream of a global caliphate. The fall of Mubarak set off alarms in Israel and the U.S. as both countries feared a decline in the joint anti-terror programs and a loss of Israeli-Egyptian relationships. These fears have not gone unfounded. Recent terror attacks in southern Israel were perpetrated by Islamists living in the Sinai (The Sinai was returned by Israel to Egypt as part of the peace agreement signed between Sadat and Begin) resulting in a cross border gun battle between Israeli forces and Egyptian police that left 5 Egyptian police officers dead. This incident further inflamed the already high anti-Israeli sentiments in Egypt and put both nations on edge even as the Israeli government apologized for the accidental deaths. Of course, what did not get reported ANYWHERE in the media was the fact that the terrorists who attacked Israel were dressed as Egyptian policemen. As the Sinai descends further into lawlessness, natural gas lines being severed, attacks on police stations, and increased smuggling of weapons and material into Gaza, the Egyptian army has stepped up its efforts to bring the region under control including the destruction of several Hamas tunnels into Gaza. At lease the responsible adults in Cairo realize that a militarized terror organization in the Sinai is a security risk to Egypt too. The best hope for Egyptian-Israeli-U.S. security stability is for the Egyptian Military to remain independently strong from what will surely be a weak coalition central government; whenever they get around to forming one.
With the impending fall of Libya strongman Moammar Gadhafi, another hornets’ nest akin to Iraq following the fall of Saddam is likely. And while Libya is predominantly Sunni, there will be those seeking a secular nation, some more liberal than others, and of course there will be the same Salafist elements linked to Al-Qaeda looking to destabilize the region. How quickly Libya moves from the joy of Gadhafi’s demise to chaos to functioning government will likely fall on the Arab League, the French, and the British. Specifically, look to the oil rich nation of Qatar to take point in the rebuilding, as the nation, home to Al-Jazeera, was at the center in providing military, communications, and command assistance to the rebels especially when Gadhafi’s tanks were bearing down on the rebel hub of Benghazi. What is especially beneficial to the U.S. and its citizen: we will not be the ones lifting the nation building load like we did after we broke the shit out of Iraq (Thanks Dick). So the next time a Republican’t criticizes President Obama about his handling of the Libyan crisis ask them to name the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq (36,000) and Libya (0), and the amount we are spending in Iraq ($1trillion)and how much we are spending in Libya ($1Billion).
Finally, Syrian Murderer/President Bashar al-Assad stepped up his excessive armed response to peaceful demonstrations within his own country and at least 2,000 Syrian citizens have been killed. Criticism and condemnation has been uneven and sporadic. The ineffectual U.N. Security Council cannot agree on a sanctions package because the totalitarian Russians would not want to be seen as hypocritical as they continue to use force, imprisonment, and murder to stifle freedom. The Arab league finally got into gear as Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Damascus in a rebuke to the Syrian government. This was quickly followed by similar moves by Kuwait and Bahrain. Long term friend Turkey, who shares a nearly a 500mile border with Syria has been putting pressure on al-Assad. The strangest situation involves the troika of Iran-Syria-Hezbollah. Iran is clearly both Syria’s and the Lebanese-based terror organization’s patron and supplier of arms, training, intelligence, and funding. But there appears to be some cracks in the relationship as Hezbollah, having been a loud voice calling for Mubarak’s capitulation and the rise of the free Arab, has been critical of the Syrian President much to the chagrin of the masters in Tehran. A similar situation is occurring in Gaza where Hamas has had its funding cut off, possibly completely, from Iran for not voicing support for the Syrian Butcher. I guess this proves that terrorists learn politics pretty quickly. If you support the murder of fellow Arabs, you may end up sharing a seat with Mubarak in his cage.
And so it goes….