The Arab revolutions: an end to dogma

The popular uprisings in the Arab world are a great disaster for a radical camp led by Syria-Iran and long indulged by media such as al-Jazeera. A great opportunity follows, says Hazem Saghieh.
Hazem Saghieh
24 June 2011

The radical, pro-Iranian pro-Syrian camp in the middle east is extremely confused nowadays. The Arab revolutions which at first triggered its enthusiasm and energy have turned out to be very different from what it expected and hoped for.

The Tunisian revolution did not release any “anti-imperialist” sentiment; the Egyptian revolution did not burn American flags in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, nor annul the 1978 treaty with Israel. The whole notion that the Tunisians and Egyptians were imitating the Khomeini revolutionary model, a notion promoted by the Iranian leaders, was proven wrong.

Moreover, the radical prophecy that the west and its influence are going to shrink in the region was also proved wrong. The international intervention in Libya widened the presence of the west and its influence in the Arab world. What is more annoying to the radical camp is that this intervention is welcomed by most Libyans and acceptable to most of the Arabs.

Syria also contradicted them. Bashar al-Assad told the Wall Street Journal that his country is stable because his regime is “very closely linked to the beliefs of the people”. A few weeks later, the uprising started in Syria. Damascus’s “steadfastness” and “confrontational policy” - which led it to support the Lebanese group Hizbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas and the Iraqi terrorists who call themselves the “Iraqi resistance” - did not help much.

Syria’s upheaval might be the most important development of all: not just because of its central location and the influence it can exert on Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also because Syria is the bridge through which Iranian influence can reach the Arab middle east.

The demonstrators in the Arab streets did not chant revolutionary slogans; they did not ask for arms or call for “resistance”. They chanted instead: “peaceful, peaceful”. The mood of young Arab people differed entirely from those of previous decades. This might change in the future; but for the moment it is safe to say that peacefulness has the upper hand

The al-Jazeera TV station, seen as the voice of Arab radicals, changed course. Those who believed its revolutionary rhetoric discovered the bitter fact: al-Jazeera had used that rhetoric as an instrument of the Qatari regime and its ambitions. Qatar now is part of the international intervention in Libya; it is part of the conservative and repressive Gulf policy toward Bahrain. The Qatari emir went to the United States to thank President Obama for “supporting democracy in the Arab world”. When Qatar changed, al-Jazeera had to change. This is manifested in its elaborate coverage of the Syrian uprising.

In this context, two further aspects of the Arab revolutions are relevant. First, Osama bin Laden's death came as a mere detail. The uprisings killed Bin Laden politically before he died at the Americans’ hands. Second, Israel has the capacity greatly to help in accelerating the positive transition and curbing radical tendencies in the Arab world. At present, it is doing the contrary under Benjamin Netanyahu and the ultra-right chauvinist coalition he leads.

But the cumulative outcome of these changes is a devastating loss for the radical camp. In their totality, they challenge the dogmas that have long poisoned Arab political culture. It is time for the dogmas to be discarded, and for real understanding and self-awareness to take their place.

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