Mohammadia, Morocco - With the U.S. having just commemorated the victims of the 9/11 attacks, a new terrorist danger is looming over the Middle East. While the U.S. managed to gather an international coalition against Al Qaida in Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks, its unilateral approach regarding regime change in Iraq was largely challenged by its closest allies in NATO, notably France and Germany.
Mohammadia, Morocco – With the U.S. having just commemorated the victims of the 9/11 attacks, a new terrorist danger is looming over the Middle East. While the U.S. managed to gather an international coalition against Al Qaida in Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks, its unilateral approach regarding regime change in Iraq was largely challenged by its closest allies in NATO, notably France and Germany.
The U.S. intervention in Iraq was largely based on propaganda that Iraq after Saddam would be put on the track of democracy and would become a prototype for the countries of the region. What happened following the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003 is a result of a lack of strategic insight. The sidelining of Sunnis –- the backbone of Saddam’s regime — as well as the dismantlement of the Iraqi army fired back upon the US and threatened the territorial integrity of Iraq. Almost ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is bordering on a civil war along sectarian lines in light of the increasing disenfranchisement of the Sunni minority and the authoritarian tendencies by a Shia-led government. The U.S. has reacted against the surge of the Islamic State by calling for an international coalition, yet to what extent would this bring a change in the region? And who are the main stakeholders in the current crisis?
As part of a wave of popular uprising, the so-called “Arab spring,” Tunisia was the first to witness a regime change, with the people resorting to successive strikes and protests demanding the ousting of Ben Ali and his regime. The domino effects reached other countries in North Arica and the Middle East. In Libya, the protests soon developed into a full scale civil war with the intervention of NATO through strategic aerial bombing that helped the rebels topple the long-ruling Gaddafi. While in Egypt, Mubarak’s resignation was followed by a short-lived Islamic rule, before the military took over again. In Syria, a bloody civil war is still ravaging the country as President Assad of Syria clings to power while the specter of balkanization looms over the Middle East.
For Sunni Gulf states, the alliance between Assad’s regime and Tehran is a matter of concern. They were actively engaged in supporting Sunni groups since the onset of the Syrian civil war. In this respect, Saudi Arabia was preparing a meeting in Riyadh to discuss possibilities for creating an international coalition against the Islamic State as a way of counterbalancing the increasing Turkish influence in the region.
The blitzkrieg advance of ISIS In Syria and Iraq rang the alarm bell for the west. The brutal tactics adopted by ISIS -– which re-baptised itself as the Islamic State (IS) — led western leaders to reconsider their strategy for the region. The turmoil in the Middle East seems to have prompted the U.S.’s return to the region after it declared its focus more on the Pacific where the U.S. has strategic stakes amid the rise of China. The rebalancing of the U.S. to Asia was followed by a desire to normalize relations with Iran through secret negotiations, and a change of the relationship status with Gulf countries from “special relationship” to a “normal relationship.” The U.S. attempt to distance itself from the region and its rapprochement with Iran raised Saudi Arabia’s concerns. However, the current turmoil forces the U.S. to reconsider its soft power strategy towards the region amid calls for intervention to counter the threat of IS.
IS’s takeover of key areas in Iraq has urged the U.S. to return to the region through an international coalition. The unprecedented chaos that threatens the very existence of the borders established by the Sykes-Picot agreement is pushing the U.S. to reconsider its strategy for the region while taking into account the lessons learned from the Bush wars. The US slow response is reflective of a desire for a cost-effective strategy through entering into an alliance with other actors including predominantly Sunni states in order to give more legitimacy to any military action.
Middle East and 21st Century Challenges
A great part of the region’s trouble has been expected, while the rest part is coincidental. Since the late 1980s, the world has witnessed rapid transformations. The market swept over the traditional functions of the state as well as new concepts such as the end of politics or history or bureaucracy stepped to take place as Fukuyama claimed. Though the new wave, called the third wave by Alvin Toffler, is consistent with the level of evolution in the Western countries, it failed to adjust to the realities of underdeveloped countries. Consequently, some underdeveloped countries tried their best to adapt to the economic side of the globalized system without applying its political facet, such as democracy, respect of human rights and good governance, as Milton Friedman argued. Such an endeavor drove many countries to destruction. These states were integrated into the global economic market, but were lagging behind in terms of institutional and political involvement. This unbalanced situation led to countries failing to maintain their integrity, which turned them into “failed States.”
The economic factor is the most relevant index for explaining the region’s turmoil. In the wake of 19th century, western countries experienced the second industrial revolution; success in a scientific, political and intellectual revolution spreading throughout Europe, while the rest of the world was regressing into political and economic backwardness based on subsistence. Today, we are witnessing the Western world entering into a third industrial revolution. However, the underdeveloped world is still preserving agricultural pattern as a preferred economic model, and replacing the dictatorship of the tribes by that of leaders over “nations” instead of building a modern one and create wealth and prosperity to their population. Today, the current political atmosphere in the Middle East is reminiscent of the one we had 100 years ago.
A New Temper Reigns in North Africa and Middle East
The horrors of the ongoing war in Syria and Iraq as they are depicted in the media can be compared to the wars that ravaged Europe during the 16thand 17th centuries prior to the treaty of Westphalia. Safety has become the first concern of individuals in North Africa and the Middle East. The images of chaos flooding the international media transform dramatically the public temper after a short dream of change. The most optimistic dreamers of change, who participated in the 2011 uprising, are no longer convinced that they should stay on the same path. As freedom tastes bitter, democracy does not suit the people of the region, and the fourth wave is a myth. Thus, dictatorships succeed in thwarting the revolutionary spirit among the countries’ youth.
The revolution is a dream that has reigned over the consciousness of these countries’ peoples for nearly a century, but they fall back every time into different historical constraints that make it problematic to achieve the ultimate end. As dictatorship is our destiny, we restore its corners whenever they crumble.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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