The Spring Arab Revolution, which began in December 2010 in Tunisia and spread into Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria with its main secular objective, has to remove the corrupt authoritarian regimes from power. The only successful state so far is Tunisia, which is on the right track to achieve its goal. In Egypt, the revolution has been stopped by a counter-revolution conducted by the Egyptian Higher Military Council and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both have achieved their first objective, which was the removal of Mubarak and a dozen of his associates from power. The military council is still part of the previous corrupt regime and its head, General Tantawi, was the defense minister for more than 25 years. The military council did their best after the removal of Mubarak to stop further changes, as the younger generation was demanding complete reform. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest and most organized political group, has aligned themselves with the military council to achieve their political strategy. They have won the majority of seats in parliament and are pushing hard to dominate political power in Egypt. The latest strategy was the nomination of K. Al-Shater for the position of Egypt’s president, despite the fact that they announced previously on several occasions that they would not seek that position. The Muslim Brotherhood may have changed their slogan from “Islam is the solution” to “Lying is the solution”. The latest news (4/7/2012) revealed that Mr. K. al-Shater has been prevented from entering the race for the position of president for legal reasons. Also, two other candidates, Mr. Abon Ismail and Mr. A. Nour are under investigation for Egyptian law.
Furthermore, the nomination of Mr. O. Suleiman for the position of president is an open invitation for the previous regime to return to power. Remember, Mr. Suleiman was appointed as vice president by Mubarak. This nomination is a big blow to the Egyptian revolution. Mr. Suleiman will not win the election unless the military council rigs the election. The next few months might bring the unexpected.
Libya and Yemen are still involved in local conflicts, despite the removal of their previous corrupt regimes. Hopefully they might be able to overcome it.
The Syrian and Bahraini conflicts are drifting away from the secular political objectives and the uprisings are turning into religious-sectarian struggles between the Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiaa.
In Bahrain, the Sunnis, who are less than one-third of the population, are dominating the government. While the Shiaa majority has less than one half of the seats in parliament, the Syrian situation is totally the opposite, where the Alawites (a Shiaa offshoot who are a minority and less than 20% of the population) are dominating the nearly 70% Sunni population. The uprising in both countries, Syrian and Bahrain, is causing a political split among the Muslims states in the Middle East.
Iran, Iraq, and the Hezbollah Shiaa of Lebanon, led by Hassan Nasserallah, are supporting the regime in Syria and the Shiaa uprising in Bahrain. It is of interest to notice that the Lebanese political party, which established a reputation as the champion of the suppressed in the Arab world, turned to support the Assad regime in Syria against the Syrian uprising.
Furthermore, Prime Minister N. al-Maliki, who leads the Iraqi government, blasted the Saudi and Qatari governments for their support of the Syrian uprising against Assad’s regime. Both the Saudi and Qatari populations are dominated by a Sunni majority. Nevertheless, the mass media in both countries blasted Prime Minister al-Maliki and called him an agent of the Iranian government, which is dominated by a Shiaa population. It is also of interest to observe that the al-Maliki government’s sectarian policy has already caused a disenfranchisement of the country’s Sunni minority. A rift between al-Maliki’s government and his Sunni political opponents casts light on a growing sectarian divide in Iraqi politics.
It is also of interest to hear al-Maliki’s support of the Shiaa uprising in Bahrain and condemnation of the Sunni uprising in Syria. Furthermore, al-Maliki made it clear that the fall of the Syrian regime will have negative consequences on the entire Middle East region. The al-Maliki political stand was also echoed by Iran, where religious and political leaders warned against interference in the internal affairs of Syria.
The Syrian uprising is causing tensions between Turkey and Iran. Iran has a Shiaa majority population while Turkey has a dominant Sunni population. Turkey has condemned the Syrian regime atrocity against its people and has been playing an important role in hosting an international meeting for the Syrian opposition group. Iran accused Turkey of being a supporter of the U.S. and Zionist Israel.
Iran has been the major source of military supply to Syria and its major political supporter. Furthermore, several Sunni Arab states, especially in the Gulf area, have already stated publicly that they are ready to supply the Syrian Free Army with weapons to help the removal of Bashar al-Assad and his government from power. The irony of such public support coming from the Saudi government is that this government discriminates and has been suppressing the Saudi Shiaa minority for hundreds of years.
The rise of religious sectarianism between the Sunni majority versus the Muslim Shiaa minority has been a major historical conflict in the Arab world in particular and the Islamic world in general for more than a thousand years.