NOTE: on 3 October I gave a public lecture on the above topic. Many of my blog readers do not live in Melbourne or Australia so, for their sake, I am providing a summary of the public lecture in three parts. This is Part 02.
With the uprising taking up most of 2011, what are some of the preliminary results across the Arab world?
Arab Spring Report Card:
Morocco: After protests, King Muhammad VI announced constitutional reforms which were voter approved in a national referendum. Parliamentary elections are due in November 2011. Pressure may be mounting to convert Morocco to a constitutional monarchy, such as is enjoyed in Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Algeria: Protests were tapered off when the government stabilized food prices and increased wages for state workers. But promised reforms of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s government have not yet occurred.
Tunisia: The interim government which replaced President Zine el Abidine Ben-Ali is holding elections in October 2011 to assemble the members who will rewrite the constitution.
Libya: Libyan rebels, with the help of NATO airpower, took the capital of Tripoli on August 21, 2011. Muammar Gaddafi is still at large in an unknown location.
Egypt: Protests have continued at Tahrir Square even after the forced resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who is on trial. Parliamentary elections will be in November 2011.
Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz el-Saud announced $100 billion of economic and social reforms in an effort to head off protests; Saudi women, long denied the right-to-drive, are taking to the wheel to press for driver’s rights.
Yemen: President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia while recovering from wounds in a June bomb attack. He will organise elections and then probably leave again.
Bahrain: The Sunni (minority) monarchy crushed protests by their mostly Shia subjects with the help of Saudi and UAE troops. Modest reforms were rejected and key protesters are still in custody.
Jordan: After protests, King Abdullah II fired his government and installed his former general to form a new cabinet. In June 2011 the King announced reforms in rural health insurance and money for job creation. Talk of a constitutional monarchy is also in the air.
Syria: Unprecedented nation-wide protests have erupted across Syria, despite the brutal crackdown President Bashar Assad’s security forces. Assad had offered restored citizenship to Syrian Kurds and lifted the nearly half century old emergency laws. Nevertheless, the protests continue, the death toll rises, international condemnation increases, and a few troops have defected to the opposition.
Three Major Countries
Readers should keep their eyes on 3 major countries in the region and how they are responding to the ‘Arab Spring.’ They are Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. All three are born-leaders who have an imperial past. All are militarily strong and want to see their leadership restored again.
EGYPT: The nation is being run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), military men who were not reformers and were willing to abandon Mubarak. It is suspected that the previous and present government, despite their fierce secularism, had quietly colluded with Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. SCAF rushed through a referendum on constitutional change 5-6 weeks after Mubarak was ousted; the results benefited the Islamists over the democrats. Egypt distanced itself from Israel and the Camp David Accords, brokered a reconciliation with Hamas and Fatah, and started warming up to Iran, who they have severed diplomatic relations for over 30 years. The Egyptian people are unhappy at the slow pace of reform under SCAF and suspect that their revolution was either hijacked or still-born ... hence, the continued protests.
IRAN: This nation has been vying for leadership in the Middle East and Muslim world while quietly assembling a ‘Shia Crescent’ from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Shia-majority Iraq, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, are major allies of Iran. Iran, as the leading Shia nation, is both non-Arab and non-Sunni, and its assertive stance is making Sunni Arab countries nervous. Assad’s Syria is a major chain link to Iran’s plans for a ‘Shia Crescent’ and they are doing everything in their power to keep him from falling; otherwise, they will suffer a major setback. However, by championing a regime that is killing its own citizens in peaceful protests is causing them to lose points among the ‘Arab Street.’ In addition, there is international pressure because of its nuclear program, which it continues to develop. The government, highly unpopular with the people, has been rocked with occasional protests. While not stated aloud, there is concern that the ‘Arab Spring’ could spread to Iran.
TURKEY: This is the one country that comes closest to resembling a secular, democratic Muslim-majority regime. Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, basking in the afterglow of a third election win, has been trying to replace Iran as the hero of the Arab world, with some success. His support for the ‘Arab Spring’ and sharp criticism of former ally Israel goes down well with the ‘Arab Street.’ But is he going to risk a show-down with Israel in the Mediterranean over their oil and gas exploration, or their blockade of Hamas in Gaza? The one bright spot that Turkey is a member of NATO and the military alliance would strongly frown on one of its members attacking a functioning parliamentary democracy.
Next week in Part 03, we will learn about Palestine, Israel, and the prophetic implications.
(The DVD of this 75 minute lecture, which is far more expansive than the blog and includes powerpoint, will be available early in November for $18 [Australia] or $25 [elsewhere]. You can safely order from the Teach All Nations website www.tan.org.au)