On various occasions in these columns I have commented on the convergence of the following factors:
- The so-called "Arab Spring" has not resulted in the spread of freedom and democracy in the Arab world, but to the spread of fanaticism, violence and turmoil.
- Al Qaida, so often declared to be on the way to extinction, especially after the death of Osama bin-Laden, is alive and well and spreading rapidly throughout the Middle East, the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.
- The new political and social realities are more conducive to the growth of Muslim fundamentalism, anti-Western phobia and anti-Semitism than the previous situation.
All of this is coming together in the first month of the new year. The spread of al-Qaida-influenced insurgency and terrorism has resulted in an emergency in Algeria, until now immune from the general movement of events; and the necessity of French military intervention in Mali to prevent the overthrow of the government in that country.
Eastern Libya, centered in Benghazi, is now a playground for militias of all types and complexions including tribal, insurgent and terrorist. Separatist sentiment is growing, the authority of the central government in Tripoli is non-existent, the security forces are absent, al-Qaida is active, and various Western countries have ordered the closure of their consulates and the evacuation of their citizens.
It should be noted that eastern Libya borders on Egypt, which is rapidly approaching the status of a failed state. Huge quantities of weapons looted from the arsenals of the Qaddafi regime are now circulating east and south of Libya. Many of these weapons will end up in the hands of terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. The Sinai is no-man's land, a playground for terrorists. Central authority is largely absent. The insurgents have no compunction whatsoever in attacking Egyptian police and soldiers.
As Egypt slides towards imminent bankruptcy, rioting and demonstrations rock the major cities (with the exception so far of Alexandria). The commander of Egypt's army, General al-Sisi, warned publicly that the country was in danger of collapse. President Morsi shouted and waved his arms around on television and declared martial law in three cities along the Suez Canal. Hundreds of men in black masks flooded into the streets "to protect the anti-government protestors", they say. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists are retaliating with their own armed thugs, fresh from preventing the Coptic community from voting in the elections that brought the brotherhood to power.
Authorities in Kuwait and the UAE have arrested agents of the Brotherhood, who are attempting to subvert those Gulf states. Bahrain is already in turmoil as a result of rebellion by elements of the Shia majority in that tiny kingdom. In the meantime the Emir of Qatar materializes everywhere, acting the role of regional if not world leader, giving money to Hamas and lending to Egypt (this is lost money--the Egyptians have no capacity to repay).
Iran continues its preparations for the production of nuclear weapons, despite draconian international economic sanctions, which have resulted in shortages, high inflation and a depreciated currency.
Will Jordan be able to resist the tide? Will the Saudi monarchy be immune?
And what of Israel? An island of democracy and growth in a sea of economic, political and social chaos? Civil war to the north in Syria, Hamas and an anarchic Sinai to the south; potentially a nuclear Iran; possible overthrow of one or more of the Gulf monarchies. A new national security/foreign policy team in Washington that is at best not particularly dedicated to promoting the best interests of Israel. A largely hostile Europe and Russia. The government that emerges from the recent election will have its hands more than full. 2013 will indeed consist of, as the Chinese curse says, "interesting times".
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 31, 2013
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