Mark Collins – Any Hope for the Arab Middle East?

A friend, who also has considerable experience on the ground in the region, after reading this article in the The Daily Star (Lebanon) by Rami G. Khouri,

Avoid pessimism in watching Arab change

has this reaction:

I have been watching the Middle East for 38 years and, aside from some occasional–and usually thwarted–flashes of hope, it just gets worse. Mr Khouri’s piece seems suffused with wishful thinking. I can see little grounds for any optimism. While there are occasional glimmers from Libya, Benghazi has been divided up among competing militias of a very Salafist streak. Yemen has exchanged one dictator for another (and the new one can’t even persuade the old one to leave town). Syria has dissolved into a bloodier chaos than anyone had imagined–

the Magdeburg of Islam’s Thirty Years War [more at end]. It will spill over to Lebanon, and as the Sunnis there are outnumbered by Christians and Shi’ites it will be very messy–to be gentle–indeed. Bahrain will make no progress in giving more rights to its Shi’ite majority because, even if its rulers wanted to (which they don’t), Saudi Arabia will never allow it. Sunni/Shi’ite tensions are getting worse in Iraq [e.g. “Bombs target Shiite neighborhoods, claim 21 lives in Iraq”], aggravated by the Syrian situation [more here]; the outcome for Iraq’s Sunnis will also not be good. Certainly no rosier than the fate of Syria’s minorities

Egypt and Tunisia seem caught in the same split between those who want a more liberal society and those who want a more Islamic one. The former may prevail in Tunisia and the latter in Egypt, but in both countries there will remain enough of the losers to keep the pot simmering and to prevent economic recovery. At the root of both countries’ problems is an excess of unemployable young people; that is double plus ungood. Meanwhile Jordan has yet to boil over and how long can the Gulfies–especially that root of all that is most awful, that mother of gerontocracies, Saudi Arabia–stay immune?

Roll up the map of the Middle East, it will not be wanted for a while.

At least not for very many positive endeavours. From just over a year ago:

Sunni, Shi’ites and the West–and a new Thirty Years War?


Der Untergang des Mittelostens

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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One response to “Mark Collins – Any Hope for the Arab Middle East?

  1. And on the Shia front:

    “Iranian-backed militant group in Iraq is recasting itself as a political player

    The Iranian-backed Shiite group responsible for most of the attacks against U.S. forces in the final years of the Iraq war is busily reinventing itself as a political organization in ways that could enhance Iran’s influence in post-American Iraq — and perhaps beyond.

    In recent months, Asaib Ahl al-Haq — the League of the Righteous — has been rapidly expanding its presence across Iraq, trumpeting the role the once-shadowy group says it played in forcing the departure of U.S. troops with its bomb attacks against American targets.

    The group’s chief officers have returned from exile in Iran, and they have set about opening a string of political offices, establishing a social services program to aid widows and orphans, and launching a network of religious schools, echoing the methods and structures of one of its close allies, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah…

    The group has a powerful ally in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, who has embraced its entry into politics as a counterweight to the influence of the mercurial Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a longtime rival who has proved an unreliable partner in the coalition government.

    Though Maliki’s aides and Asaib Ahl al-Haq officials deny any formal relationship, they acknowledge friendly relations and don’t discount the possibility that they could strike an electoral pact…”

    More on Mr Maliki here:

    Mark Collins

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