Enjoy your Arab Spring!
“The goal is to stop Israel from turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city.” Readers of this column may think this paragraph will continue with a reference to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who in the past did not hide his dream “to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Palestinian capital Jerusalem.” But no.
The opening line, this time, belongs to Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who in the same speech praised the fighters who bombed the pipeline that carries natural gas from Egypt to Israel. The Arab Spring may have helped Egypt free itself from the dictator Hosni Mubarak but now it risks turning into a bloody arena between the ones like Mr. Mubarak and the ones like Mr. al-Zawahiri.
Eighteen months after the start of the Egyptian Spring, the country’s military leaders have issued constitutional decrees that give the armed forces vast powers and the presidency a subservient role, including granting themselves legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution.
No matter which one of the two self-declared winners wins, Egypt’s first free elections are full of systemic fraud including ballot box stuffing, voter bribing, voter intimidation and attacks near polling stations. That’s not surprising if you recall last month’s attack on secular candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s office after the election committee announced that Mr. Shafiq would face the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Mursi.
The Algerians, with bitter experience, cry and warn that Egypt could plunge into an Algeria-like scenario of violent strife. “Egypt’s transition,” American scholar Nathan Brown recently commented in the Guardian, “May well be from military dictatorship to presidential dictatorship.” (No typo here: Mr. Brown said Egypt, not Turkey.)
In Tunisia, Salafis burn police stations, cafes and bars, lash out at tourists and students, attack dramatists and ransack art exhibitions. The Kahwa al-Alia, a highly celebrated café in Sidi Bou Said since the end of the 19th century and a popular tourist attraction, was attacked and burned down. Mr. al-Zawahiri had recently urged Tunisians to riot against the government – and all things “un-Islamic.”
As a result, Tunisia, the “success story of the Arab Spring,” had to impose a curfew on eight regions including the capital, Tunis. And the U.S., Switzerland, Belgium and Austria have issued travel warnings urging caution to their citizens planning trips to “success story” Tunisia.
Meanwhile, in Libya, the National Transitional Council has ordered the military to use “all means necessary” to end clashes in the country’s west. Tripoli has also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors in “now-democratic Libya,” just like were proposed for “undemocratic Syria.”
The government declared the area a “military zone” following clashes between fighters from the Zintan and El-Mashashia tribes killed 14 and wounded nearly 100 people. And Zintan is the same tribe whose leader Ali Daw Zintani in March raided a five-star Turkish hotel in Tripoli, the Rixos Al Nasr, and kidnapped the hotel’s manager because he was asked to pay after a six-month stay. The gentleman Mr. Zintani benevolently agreed to release the manager after probably having recalled the Turkish support for the toppling of the tyrant Colonel Gadhafi.
In the country’s south more than 20 people were killed last week in inter-tribal clashes between the Saharan Toubou tribe and the Arab Zwei tribe. But most ironically, a vehicle carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya was attacked by propelled grenades in Benghazi only days after a bomb went off just outside the U.S. consulate in the same city, the cradle of last year’s uprising supported by the U.S. and Britain. Ungrateful Libyans!
Luckily, the first 18 tumultuous months of the Arab Spring have passed. Once we deal with the next 180 tumultuous months, then the final 1,800 tumultuous months will be very easy to tackle.