by Dr. A. Adityanjee
Arab Spring, Arab Winter, Arab Summer, Arab Renaissance, Arab Awakening, Islamic Awakening and Islamic Rise are just few of the epithets used to describe the complex and multidimensional geopolitical changes in the middle-east region that comprises of West Asia and Northern Africa. Depending upon one’s perspective, each of these adjectives is inadequate to describe the complex geopolitical phenomena that have engulfed the region. It is important to recapitulate that barring three nations, viz. Iran, Turkey an Israel all other countries in this region are Arab. Despite Francis Fukuyama’s puerile musings about the “end of history”, we are now witnessing tectonic changes of historic proportions. However, it will be a very slow and bloody change that would be unstoppable despite numerous western interventions.
As the geopolitical events unfold, we will witness a quasi-permanent fratricidal intra-Islamic sectarian war for decades in the west Asian region culminating in major cartographic changes.
The genie of historic change had been unleashed much earlier in 2003 when the Baathist regime was toppled in Iraq ostensibly to chase the now non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”. The ten year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and “the ensuing mother of all battles” does not witness peace and tranquility in that nation, divided de facto, on sectarian and ethnic fault-lines. The Iraqi Kurdistan, nominally under the central government of Iraq is on a rapid trajectory to peace, prosperity and development while Baghdad continues to witness sectarian violence and bomb attacks. The Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is grabbing executive powers and has inadvertently encouraged sectarian divide and Shia identity politics. Besides the Iraqi Kurds, the real beneficiary of the US invasion worth $ 870 billion has been the Islamic Republic of Iran.
If one chooses to be historically correct, the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran is the real harbinger of the so-called Arab spring. A US supported dictator was overthrown by popular revolt in Iran. The popular revolution was usurped and captured by Islamist Ayatollah Khomeini leading to a lot of blood-shed and massacre of democratic and liberal sections of the Iranian society in a targeted manner. A mini-version of this so-called (“Persian”) spring was again manifest in Iran, a non-Arab Shia theocracy in 2009 under the name of “green revolution”. However, the US administration led by Barak Hussain Obama “rightly” failed to capitalize on the situation leading to brutal suppression of young Iranians by the theocratic regime and its revolutionary guards. For the first time the US and its cronies missed an opportunity for externally driven regime change in Iran.
Starting with Tunisia, the Arab Spring phenomena later on engulfed Egypt and Yemen. In Yemen, an extended “managed” political change was indeed brought in grudgingly under the patronage of Western imperialistic powers. Both Tunisia and Egypt saw subsequent take-over by Islamists in democratic elections. After over-throwing of Ben-Ali, the fundamentalist An-Nahda Islamists were the victors of the Tunisian democratic elections in October 2011. The Jihadists and the Salafists are now working in tandem with the conservative An-Nahda Islamists to infiltrate the previously secular Tunisian state from within. The story in Egypt is not very much different where the popular revolution against Hosni Mubarak and the Armed Forces has already been annexed by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Mohammad Morsey. The Egyptian judiciary, especially the Supreme Court has resisted the Muslim Brotherhood and its attempts to foist an Islamist constitution. Furthermore, the Egyptian Supreme court has postponed yet again the parliamentary elections denying the MB an opportunity to control the entire state. Parts of the civil police force have already stopped obeying orders of the Islamist government to fight against fellow citizens forcing the MB to spare its cadre for law enforcement duties.
Using the fig-leaf of so-called Arab Spring, the opportunistic Western powers militarily intervened in Libya, another socialist Baathist party ruled Arab dictatorship and brought out a regime change they had craved for long. The subsequent Islamist take-over of Libya, the barbaric treatment (victor’s justice) given to the quixotic dictator Col Mommar Gadaffi and killings of the US ambassador and other personnel by Al Qaeda in Ben Ghazi is illustrative of the nature of the beast. Interestingly, the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussain and Col Mommar Gadaffi, all three had indeed served with great distinction as the “useful idiots” of the Western imperialism. The ideological hollowness of the West and the cheer-leaders of the so-called Arab Spring was noted again in Bahrain where popular and public demands for political change were exterminated brutally by foreign military intervention undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Pakistan in order to prevent take-over of the Sunni ruled nation by a Shia majority population.
Syrian example shows the true colors of the cheer-leaders of the so-called Arab spring. Another socialist and secular Arab country ruled by the Baath party is being systematically destabilized from outside intervention for the last two years and sacrificed at the altar of Sunni-Salafi-Jihadi-Wahabi (SSJW) geopolitical interests. Foreign Sunni fighters are leading the war against the Assad regime, fully supported by the regional Sunni monarchies. What we see now is essentially a Sunni-Shia (SU-SHI) sectarian power struggle in the Islamic nations of the West Asian region with Western imperialistic intervention in a systematic manner to defeat the secular and socialist Baath party regimes and of course to safeguard the interests of the Sunni-Salafi-Jihadi-Wahabi (SSJW) alliance. This bloody sectarian conflict will not be resolved in next few months or years. As the geopolitical events unfold, we will witness a quasi-permanent fratricidal intra-Islamic sectarian war for decades in the west Asian region culminating in major cartographic changes. There will be multiple incarnations of Arab & Islamist “Tianamen Squares” during which the despotic rulers will brutally suppress the revolting citizens. The US strategic retreat from the middle- east and pivot to Asia will finally allow the history to emerge in the middle-east uncontaminated by the hegemonic order imposed by the US hyper-power.
Right now all the Arab monarchies have tried to buy out the demands for freedom and socio-political change by bribing their respective populations with yet more goodies financed by petro-dollars. This monetary intervention would at best delay the clamor for freedom and political change only by a few years in the oil-rich nations. There will be Islamist take-over of one-kind or other in all these countries. But political Islam would not be able to provide stability and strategic security to these nations. Just like in the communist countries as they vied with one another for title of the adherents of the true nature of communism practiced in the former communist countries, one would witness competitive claims of “true or genuine Islamism” by various ruling dispensions in this region. Fundamentalist competitive “political Islam” in alliance with Jihadis would hijack liberal and democratic popular uprisings. Indeed, there will be immense loss of human life and Jihadi terrorism will rule the roost. Transfer of power and change of regimes will be an inherently bloody process. There will be serious human rights violations and genocide by all the sides in the name of “true Islam”. Western apologists and backers for these despotic countries under severe financial crunch would no longer be interested in maintaining the geo-political status quo ante.
These geopolitical tectonic changes are likely to result in emergence of new nation states. Syria might be balkanized into multiple small entities or state-lets analogous to the former Republic of Yugoslavia. One would not be surprised if an Independent Kurdistan finally emerges as the 4th non-Arab country in the middle-east. Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey may lose their respective Kurdish populations to a newly independent and democratic Kurdistan. Since the fall of the Ottoman empire, the Western imperialistic powers while arbitrarily carving out state-lets to safeguard their own economic and hydrocarbon interests, chose to sacrifice the Kurdish national interests and denied them right to a state. West Asia has app 35 million Kurdish (non-Arab) people with app half (18 million) in Turkey, 8 million in Iran, 7 million in Iraq and 2 million in Syria. Unraveling of Syria will serve as a catalyst for Turkish Kurds to revolt against the increasingly Islamist Sunni dispension of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara that has systematically deviated from the secular ideology of Kemal Ata-Turk, the founding father of modern Turkey.
Both the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan have successfully orchestrated staggered, coordinated hunger strikes for more than two months by thousands of Kurdish prisoners in Turkish jails. Turkey is going through a schizophrenic struggle between its European aspirations and Islamic moorings. However, political Islam will not be able to hold the Turks and the Kurds together. With increasing Sunniazation of the Turkish polity, this large ethnic and linguistic Kurdish minority will eventually assert itself in this chaotic geopolitical transition. Islamic glue will not be able to hold together Turkish and Kurdish ethnic identities and a volcanic eruption of nationalist fervor will unravel Turkey as we know it. If Turkish and Syrian Kurds turn more nationalistic and declare an independent Kurdistan, Iraqi and Iranian Kurds will be forced to follow suit.
As a result of this, a truncated Iraq would eventually come out as a Shia-Arab theocracy with a Sunni minority supported by the neighboring Shia-Persian theocracy, Iran. Iran would not be insulated from demands of political freedom and change if there is no external intervention. Young, educated and emancipated Iranians will eventually overthrow the conservative Ayatollah-cracy leading to a more democratic and liberal regime change. A non-theocratic and more democratic and liberal Iran will re-emerge as a major regional power with friendly Shia majority governments in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and elsewhere including in Lebanon. Iran will be a long-term winner in the despite losing some territory to Kurdistan and Baluchistan. A loose federation of Shia states may become a power grouping in the region.
In such a geopolitical scenario, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) would no longer be safeguarded by a strategically retreating USA. By 2017, the USA will surpass the Saudis as the largest petroleum producing nation that will become a net exporter of hydro-carbons in 2020. Future US administrations will be forced by domestic isolationists to give up the stability mantra leaving the middle-east region to its own devices. The ultra-geriatric conservative clan of Saudi princelings with all their extremities in the grave will not be able to hold the country together especially in the face of increasingly restive and un-employed young men. Increasing modernization and “secularization” of this tribal society will be resisted violently by the ruling political establishment. There have already been small demonstrations by Sunni Muslims calling for the release of people held on security charges. Saudi women will demand equal rights and driving privileges. The Saudi women would like to emulate their more emancipated Iranian counter-parts in public discourse. If Al Qaeda or its various mutants take-over the Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud will be brutally slaughtered in the name of “liberating Islam”. The internal strife in Saudi Arabia will manifest openly in an explosive manner when the oil-fields dry up in few decades.
The only unrest to hit Saudi Arabia during the so-called Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings was among its Shi'ite Muslim minority. The Shia populations in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia will eventually revolt against a Sunni-Salafi-Jihadi-Wahabi (SSJW) complex leading to emergence of another Shia state-let. Bahraini Shia population is likely to over-throw the ruling Sunni dynasty, leading to emergence of another Shia nation. A Palestinian state-let may eventually be established as a joint protectorate of Egypt and Jordan. Egypt and Turkey will have much diminished geo-political influence. Egypt will have to deal with the issue of human rights of an increasingly vocal Coptic Christian minority. Some countries might eventually disappear by 2030. The most putative candidates are Lebanon, Kuwait and the Palestine.
The impact of these geo-political changes will without doubt creep eastwards towards the Af-Pak region of the South-Asia leading to cartographic changes in national boundaries. Pakistan-occupied Baluch principalities, exploited by the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani army will successfully revolt for an independent Baluchistan as the Chinese footprint increases in the Gwadar port. After taking over the Gwadar port, China will seriously attempt to exploit the mineral and hydrocarbon wealth of Pakistan-occupied Baluch areas, thereby, increasing the sense of alienation and marginalization amongst the Baluch tribes. The separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army will target Chinese companies and personnel in the ensuing war of independence. The Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran will take its own time joining an Independent Baluchistan. The consequent undoing of the artificial geographic boundaries arbitrarily determined by the British colonialists will lead to emergence of newer states carved out of the Af-Pak region.
Another fall-out of these changes would be emergence of an independent and greater Pakhtoonistan comprising of the Khyber-Pakhtoonwah province of Pakistan and the Pakhtoon areas of the Afghanistan across the now defunct Durand line. The result would a truncated but more stable Afghanistan controlled by the northern alliance comprising of the Tajeks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. A truncated Pakistan will continue to remain as a rent-seeking failed state. It may implode eventually, leading to its fragmentation followed by multi-lateral external intervention under supervision of the UN and the IAEA to secure the nuclear weapons and the fissile materials. Further to north-east, a restive Uighurs’ population will force the emergence of Eastern Turkistan while throwing away the 300 years’ old occupation by the Han Chinese and subsequent annexation by the Communist China led by Comrade Mao.
Will this tectonic change engulf the central Asian states or the “stans” is not clear at this time as the geopolitical dynamics are entirely different in the Central Asia in comparison to the South and West Asia.
There will be following major discernible evolutionary geo-political trends underlying the so-called Arab spring. The despotic regimes headed by dictators, monarchs, military strongmen, presidents-for-life and supreme leaders-for-life would eventually be overthrown by the popular revolt. The middle-east is surely due for a major cartographic make-over in the next few decades. The fault-lines would be sectarian, ethnic and linguistic. The glue of Political Islam supported by embedded Jihadi elements would be torn asunder while facing the sectarian, ethnic and linguistic divide.
Whether some kind of democracy will eventually prevail in this region in near future is doubtful, at best. Political Islam with its Jihadi mutant will be on the ascendance temporarily as an essential bloody interim phase in the long-term development of liberal democracy in the West Asia, North Africa and Af-Pak regions of South Asia. Increasing modernization, secularization and intellectual emancipation of the common masses will eventually defeat the Islamist counter-reaction in each of these countries. Iran which is way ahead in the trajectory of civilizational change and democratic evolution will emerge as the most influential regional player while Egypt, Turkey and the KSA will eclipse relatively.