Arab Spring unravelling

Gulf Daily News Monday, 22nd December 2014
Arab Spring
President, Arab American Institute
our years ago, Tunisia and Egypt erupted in broad popular revolts. At first, analysts, Arab and Westerners alike, were
confounded. When Libya, Yemen, and Syria
followed, in short order, the upheavals came
to be described as the Arab Spring.
The model envisioned by the term the
Arab Spring was relatively straightforward. A
spark had been ignited in Tunisia that would
catch fire across the region bringing fundamental social and political transformation in
its wake.
However, when Zogby Research Services
(ZRS) polled in Arab countries in late 2011
we found that public opinion was less certain. For example, when we asked citizens in
Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, whether they believed the
Middle East was better off or worse off as a
result of the Arab Spring, the responses were
largely divided between those who said
they felt the Arab world was “better off” and
those who thought that it might be “too early to tell”. This mix of being both hopeful and
yet tentative reflected the uncertainty that
many felt at the collapse of the old order.
ZRS polled in most of these same countries
again this autumn and found the mood had
soured with the number of those saying that
the region is “worse off” more than tripling
or at least doubling what it had been in
We also found that what was once projected as a simple narrative with a single
trajectory had now devolved into a far more
complex portrait of individual stories each
with their own unique characteristics. Egypt
is not Tunisia and Yemen is not Syria or Libya.
When we asked Arabs to assess developments in the countries that had experienced
upheavals, and how hopeful they were that
each would produce a brighter future, only
Tunisia fared well.
Egypt was seen as moving in a positive
direction only by Emiratis and Saudis (whose
countries have invested heavily in Egypt).
And the overwhelming majority of respondents in all countries had little hope that the
situation in Syria or Libya would be resolved
in the next five years.
One by-product of the Arab Spring was the
empowering of the Muslim Brotherhood in
many of the affected countries. The Brotherhood received mixed reviews for its role in
A most revealing result was the near even
positive/negative assessment (43pc/44pc)
that Egyptians gave to the Brotherhood’s
impact on developments in their country. It
doesn’t necessarily translate to a measure of
the group’s popularity as it does to a growing uneasiness with the current trajectory of
developments in Egypt.
Our survey also explored regional views of
the bloody conflict in Syria, the emergence
of the Islamic State (IS) and the growth of
radicalisation and sectarianism.
What we found were universal concern
with the continuing war in Syria, concern
with the impact that it was having in the
broader region (the refugee crisis that is
overwhelming Lebanon and Jordan and the
growth of sectarian division and radicalism)
and fear that Syria might fragment into destabilising sect-based entities.
There was no confidence that this conflict
would end soon or that way might be found
to achieve a negotiated solution to resolve
it. In every country but Lebanon, there was
rejection of the Bashar Al Assad regime.
There is near universal rejection of IS and
deep concern about the impact that this
movement was having on the region. At the
same time, the lack of confidence in the US
that we found in our June 2014 poll, and
the low favourable ratings Arabs give to US
involvement in the region, combine to create
less than enthusiastic support for a Western-led effort to confront IS.
After reviewing the results of this study,
what emerges is a region deeply conflicted
about the developments of the past four
What had been presented as a simple
story-line of progress at the beginning of the
Arab Spring has become a troubling tale of
more steps backward than forward.
Our hearts bleed
was hardly any person who could
hold their tears at the worst type of barbaperpetrated on innocent students of an
army school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar,
on December 16. It has shaken humanity and
people are in shock and disbelief; how can
someone stoop so low as to target schoolchildren and teachers?
The scale of the tragedy can be gauged
from the fact that almost 25 per cent of the
school population are now either dead or
seriously injured and languishing in hospitals.
There are parents who have lost all their
three children. In one class, all the students
were killed except one who did not go to
school on that fateful day.
No words of condemnation are enough for
this horrific tragedy. International communities today stand together in condemning
this dastardly act. In a gesture of solidarity,
schoolchildren in India paid their tribute to
the Peshawar victims by observing two minutes of silence.
Now the world should understand that
these terrorists are ruthless beasts, who are
enemies of Islam and the entire humanity. The
media in the West should stop blaming Islam
for such acts of violence.
The various bands of terrorists – whether
they call themselves Pakistani Taliban or
Daesh (Islamic State) or any Islamic names –
have a common philosophy of following the
footprints of Khawarij (excommunicated from
Islam). They need to be wiped out from the
face of earth.
Islam is a religion of peace as manifested in
the injunctions of the Quran and the utterances of our beloved Prophet, who said “whoever
kills one innocent life it is as if he has killed all
humanity”. Islam means peace.
All resources available to the world nations
should be mobilised to combat terrorism.
It is high time India and Pakistan stop
blaming each other for any act of terrorism
perpetrated in their countries. This is certainly
Such acts are done by non-state actors and
they are to be dealt with by joining hands
and keeping the international community on
The cancer of terrorism affecting the entire
humanity needs to be eradicated.
Prof Dr Shamsul Haque Alvi
Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
University of Bahrain
TODAY is Monday, December 22, the 356th
day of 2014. There are nine days left in the
year. Highlights in history on this date:
69 – Roman Emperor Vitellius is
1636 – Archduke Ferdinand, son of the Emperor, is elected King of the Romans.
1790 – Russian troops capture Ismail, Russia, from the Turks.
1793 – Napoleon Bonaparte, aged 24, is
promoted to brigadier general in recognition of his decisive part in the capture of
Toulon from British forces.
1894 – Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason
by French court martial and is ordered imprisoned on Devil’s Island in French Guiana.
1905 – Insurrection of Moscow workers;
Revolution in Persia begins.
1929 – Round table conference opens between British Viceroy and Indian party leaders on Dominion status for India.
1942 – US heavy bombers raid Japanese-occupied Rangoon, Burma, in the Second World War.
1956 – Last Anglo-French forces leave Port
Said, Egypt, following Suez War.
1963 – Greek liner Laconia catches fire and
sinks in North Atlantic with loss of 150 lives.
1968 – Eighty-two crewmen of US intelligence ship Pueblo are released by North
Korea at Panmunjom, 11 months after their
capture off North Korea.
1975 – Pro-Palestinian terrorists end 20hour siege of Vienna, Austria, headquarters
of Opec, take hostages and airliner provided
by Austria, and begin flight to several Middle East capitals.
1985 – Winnie Mandela, defying expulsion
order, is arrested by police who drag her
from her Soweto, South Africa, home.
1988 – South Africa signs accord at United
Nations granting independence to Africa’s
last colony, which will become black-ruled
n Activists rally for victims of the school massacre in Lahore
Terrorist hallmarks…
of its kind against innocent schoolchildren.
The more than 141 children killed were not
HE modus operandi of most terrorist orvictims of collateral damage; they were not
ganisations seems to be similar – attacking caught between warring factions; they were
schoolchildren as an act of revenge against
victims of brutal, psychopathic and trigincumbent governments. Targeting school
ger-happy thugs.
children who are expected to
We can find similar massacres or
shape the future is a high-profile
kidnappings of innocent schoolchilPublished
crime and can only be committed
dren at the hand of terrorist groups in
necessarily the views of the recent history.
by terrorists who have suffered
Editor. Readers wishing to
huge military and political setIn September 2004, Chechen
make a complaint through
backs. It is a sign of weakness and
separatist groups attacked a school
the GDN should provide full in Beslan, North Ossetia, Southern
shows that the terrorists are on
details of the complaint
the verge of collapse.
Russia and held 1,200 people hostage
together with their contact including children and adults. The
The heinous crime committed by the Pakistani Taliban last
three-day siege ended with about
telephone numbers.
week was one of the brutalities
339 people dead, out of which 186
nation of Namibia.
1988 – Rubber tapper and renowned rain
forest defender Chico Mendes is murdered
by cattle ranchers in the western Amazon
of Brazil.
1989 – Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his
wife Elena flee Bucharest, Romania.
1990 – Lech Walesa is sworn in as Poland’s
first popularly elected president.
1991 – Twenty one US sailors drowned
when an Israeli ferry taking them from shore
leave, capsizes.
1992 – A Libyan Boeing 727 on a domestic
flight crashes, killing all 157 people aboard.
1993 – Alina Fernandez Revuelta, daughter
of Cuban president Fidel Castro, leaves Cuba
and is granted political asylum in the US.
1994 – Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi
resigns over a bribery scandal after seven
months at head of conservative coalition.
1995 – As thousands cheer, Yasser Arafat’s
wife lights the Christmas tree in Manger
Square, ushering in Bethlehem’s first Christmas under Palestinian rule.
1996 – In a “Christmas gesture,” Tupac Amaru rebels free 225 hostages from the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru,
but keep 140.
1997 – Hong Kong authorities decide to
slaughter all chickens brought from mainland China, after three people die of what
is thought to be a strain of influenza transferred from the fowl.
1998 – Israel’s parliament votes overwhelmingly for early elections, signalling
the demise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ailing hard-line government and
effectively freezing the already-troubled
peace process with the Palestinians.
1999 - A Korean Air 747 cargo plane crashes
shortly after takeoff from Stansted Airport
north of London, setting off a fire and killing
all four people aboard. It is the second fatal
accident for Korean Air of the year.
2000 - Three armed robbers storm into
Stockholm’s waterfront National Museum
and make off with a Rembrandt self-portrait
and two masterpieces by Renoir and flee by
2001 - Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun who
leads one of the largest tribes in southern
Afghanistan, is sworn in as chairman of a
six-month interim government; passengers
and crew aboard an American Airlines jet en
route to Miami, Florida subdue Briton Richard Reid as he tries to detonate explosives
hidden in his shoes.
2002 - North Korea confirm it removed and
disabled monitoring devices that had been
placed at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor to
ensure compliance with a 1994 international agreement.
2003 - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of
Boston, Massachusetts pays the 542 plaintiffs who agreed to a sexual abuse settlement with the archdiocese. The archdiocese
will sell church property to fund the part of
the $85 million settlement not covered by
2004 - Saudi Arabia announces it is withdrawing its ambassador to Libya in what
the kingdom called a measured response to
reports Tripoli had plotted to assassinate its
crown prince.
2005 - An Istanbul court separately fines
an author and a journalist for insulting the
state, the latest convictions in Turkey under a law that European Union officials say
limits freedom of expression and must be
2006 - The Roman Catholic Church denies a
religious funeral for paralysed Italian author
Piergiorgio Welby, who died after a doctor
disconnected his respirator saying it would
treat his public wish to “end his life.” The Vatican calls the controversial case an apparent
2007 - Guatemalan congressman-elect
Marco Antonio Xicay of the conservative
Patriotic Party is shot to death by unidentified attackers outside a popular resort in the
2008 - Thailand’s revered monarch urges
the new government to make peace its priority, breaking months of silence about the
political turmoil that shut down Bangkok’s
airports and sparked violence in the streets.
2009 - Assailants gun down the mother,
aunt and siblings of a marine killed in a raid
that took out one of Mexico’s most powerful
cartel leaders – sending a chilling message
to troops battling the drug war: You go after
us, we wipe out your families.
2010 - Iraq’s Christian leaders call off
Christmas celebrations amid new Al Qaeda
threats on the tiny community still terrified
from a bloody siege on a Baghdad church.
2011 - A terrifying wave of bombs tears
through mostly Shi’ite neighbourhoods
of Baghdad, killing at least 69 people and
evoking fears that Iraq could dissolve into
a new round of sectarian violence now that
American troops have left.
2012 - Egypt’s Islamist-backed constitution
heads toward approval in a final round of
voting, but the deep divisions it has opened
up threaten to fuel continued turmoil.
2013 - Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian
oligarch who crossed President Vladimir
Putin and ended up in jail for a decade, says
he plans to devote his life to securing the
freedom of the country’s political prisoners.
ANGER makes dull men witty, but
it keeps them poor – attributed
to Queen Elizabeth I of England