Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Middle East is boiling

Panoramic view:

Tunisia: things are still volatile. How will the first successful popular uprising in modern Arab history turn out? Five years ago I would have been pessimistic, believing that it could only result in the rise of the Muslim fundamentalists. But now, I don't know. The Arabs have sure changed a lot in the past decade, and now they seem ripe for a more democratic rule.

Egypt: the masses are rioting in the streets, angry mainly with President Mubarack's intent to pass the role of Presidency to his son. They are emboldened by the Tunisian revolution, and so far they are unmoved by the threats of the authority's. Twitter has been blocked in Egypt, proving once again how important social networks have become in the fight for freedom.

It is good to see people standing up to a dictatorship, but also worrying. Egypt, at the moment, plays a much needed stabilizing role in the Middle East, and helping in the fight against fundamentalism. I would rather see the regime remaining in place for now. Let the democratic revolution happen in other Arab countries first.

Yemen: the people started rioting today. See how that goes.

Algiers: still rioting. Hard.

Lebanon: power shift. With reports that the international tribunal is about to implicate Hizballah for the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri, Hizballah threatened to spark a civil war if Lebanon doesn't turn its back on the tribunal. PM Saad Hariri, son of the slain PM, showed guts and refused, so Hizballah quit the government, and managed to gain a majority in the Parliament for its side. The result: Hariri was impeached, and Lebanon has a new PM, Mikathi, a man loyal to Syria.

So it appears that Hariri, and the pro-Western camp, have lost, while Hizballah, the assassins, have won. But I'm not sure. First, it is significant that this coup took place according to the rules of democracy, and even Hizballah felt obliged to play by them. Second, Hizballah is now in the majority, which will keep them busy in running the country, while the makeup of their coalition will prevent them from passing any fundamentalist laws - they will not be able to turn the country into Iran, as some people fear. Third - Hariri may have lost for now, but it is important that he didn't play the usual Lebanese game of compromising with criminals, and keeps demanding justice against the assassins.

It is not certain yet what Hariri and his camp will do now, and if they will accept the new PM and continue to play by the rules of democracy. But for now, Lebanese democracy holds. In the past, this situation would have already escalated into civil war. The fact that it didn't shows that maybe Lebanon has grown.

Palestinian Authority: is rocked by Al Jazeera's revelations that the heads of the PA were ready to give up on the right of return, and parts of East Jerusalem, in the talks with Israel. But surprisingly, so far, there are no riots against the leadership. Could it be that the Palestinian people actually accept it? Let's see what happens tomorrow, after Friday prayer.

Iran: out of the spotlight, the regime is executing all those who participated in last year's riots. About a hundred have been executed just in the past month. Go ahead, this will only precipitate your downfall. January 29 has been designated as a global day of protest.

Sudan: about to split up, as the South just voted on it. Official results are not known yet, but they say about 99% voted for cessation. We still don't know what this will cause.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia: terrorism continues to run rampant, killing thousands every month.

Israel: continues to be the quietest corner of the Middle East.

Tomorrow is Friday, Yaum al Juma'a, the day when Muslims meet in the mosques, and hear rousing sermons. This is usually when the boiling pot starts to overflow. Watch out.

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