The Arab Winter

Two years after the start of the Arab Spring, no newly formed government has been successful at passing a new constitution. Progress in Tunisia has stalled. In Egypt, opposition groups are protesting what is seen as an Islamic leaning draft constitution. The new Libyan government is making progress but also dealing with internal militant and terrorist threats, such as those responsible for the Benghazi consulate attack. Syria is still embroiled in open civil war.

The process of transition is underway, but it is far from clear what the ultimate outcome of the Arab Spring will be. Many eyes are focused on Egypt where a declaration from newly elected President Mohammed Morsi gave him almost unlimited powers. He has since withdrawn part of the decree, but only after the Judiciary was prevented from dissolving the constitutional drafting committee.

During the drafting of the new constitution, about two dozen secular and Christian delegates resigned from the committee in protest over Islamist bullying. Protesters are demanding the national referendum on the draft be delayed, but these demands have been dismissed by Morsi. The military was deployed to the Presidential Palace last week to restore order to protests that had turned violent. Protesters remain in the streets, but the atmosphere is more subdued than before when several people were killed in clashes between pro-Morsi and opposition protesters.

As a side effect of the change in Egyptian government, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was able to visit Gaza for the first time. Born in the West Bank and living in exile for many years, the 25th anniversary of Hamas marks the first time he has been able to get into the blockaded Gaza strip without fear of assassination. He delivered a speech in which he said, “We are not giving up any inch of Palestine.” He also refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy.

In Syria, concerns over the use of chemical weapons have surfaced. Threats have been issued to Assad by the U.N., U.S., N.A.T.O. and others against the use of such weapons, thought to include mustard and sarin gas. To date, an estimated 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Turkey is hosting 136,000 Syrian refugees in 14 camps and another 70,000 live among Turkey’s population. Syrian fighting has threatened to draw surrounding countries into the conflict including Turkey and Lebanon.

Syrian Rebel forces have united under a single military command. The 30-person Supreme Military Council was elected by some 500 delegates. Additionally, the two most extreme rebel groups, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were not invited. U.S. officials say the Obama administration is preparing to designate Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist organization.

The ultimate result of these upheavals will not be known for many years. What is known is how narrow the path to prosperity is for this region.

Additional Resources

The Wall Street Journal, Egypt Faces Turmoil over Vote: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324024004578169442485653364.html

The Wall Street Journal, Syrian Fighting Spills into Lebanon: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323339704578169420706548796.html

The Wall Street Journal, Hamas Leader Visits Gaza for the First Time: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323501404578164932281932130.html

The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Renews Exemptions from Iran Sanctions: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323501404578165674023785506.html

The Huffington Post, Arab Spring Timeline: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/16/arab-spring-timeline-_n_1153909.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Harvard Gazette, A Fall Snapshot of Arab Spring: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/11/a-fall-snapshot-of-arab-spring/

United States Army War College, The Arab Spring and the Future of U.S. Interests and Cooperative Security in the Arab World: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/index.cfm/articles/The-Arab-Spring-and-the-Future-of-US-Interests/2011/8/2

 

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