Looking for the foreign finger in the Arab Spring

Looking for the foreign finger in the Arab Spring

Despite overwhelming political distractions on the Egyptian front, pointing fingers at the outside world and foreign intervention seems to be shared by both the old regime and those who replaced them. In the second year of what was prematurely called “the Arab Spring,” a Middle East that had spent half a century facing its paramount regional challenge - namely the Arab-Israeli conflict - is turning to confront its own regimes and leaders in a quickly unfolding drama. Many of the changes taking place have already been conceived, albeit in dramatic fiction. Ironically, even the most dramatic imagination has not been dramatic enough, as the unfolding events are revealing.

In fiction, it is the author’s imagination, in theater it is the director’s perspective on a script. In contrast, in reality we seem to keep searching for the culprit behind the ugly scenes. For many of the peaceful, unassuming and once-resigned Arab populations, the Arab Spring is turning into a bad movie and the distracting question is: Who is responsible for the derailing? At first, all fingers were pointed at the heads of the regimes as we witnessed the fleeing of Ben Ali from Tunisia, the falling of Mubarak from power into custody, the massacre of Gadhafi and, lately, the negotiated ousting of Saleh in Yemen.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad seems to be next in line, as the bloodshed there reaches a painful level. Interestingly, the afflicted Arab countries are all republics; the Arab monarchies have so far succeeded in avoiding their demise. As far as the simple scenario goes, the Arab populations have revolted against their leaders in pursuit of better ones. Hailed as the onset of spring, it has turned out to be a far from easy task, unfolding over the course of four seasons already. From what seemed like a struggle to change those at the top, it became clear to many that the individuals at the helm were only the tip of the iceberg. All the revolts so far have brought strikingly to the fore some form of political Islam, but the will of the young populations to dig deeper for substantial change rather than cosmetic change grows stronger, despite the continuous distractions and political games.

In Egypt, in particular, the ‘trading places’ scenario will face much defiance. As the institutional change process continues to play out, Egyptians are certainly looking at a different spring this year. Come June, Egypt should have a newly elected president, a new constitution or at-least the draft of one, and the long-awaited sentence in the trail of Mubarak and his aides. The trial of the century concluded its deliberations Wednesday night, with final remarks from Mubarak himself and a two hour long statement by his Minister of Interior. The court will announce its sentence June 2.

The minister is reported to have said that foreign elements, rather than the police force, were responsible for the killing of Egyptians, breaking open the prisons and attacking the police stations simultaneously. By the end of spring this year, the details of the Mubarak verdict, to be publically televised, could provide answers to some of the many missing links to those responsible. By then, a clearer understanding of where the Arab Spring is heading might also be possible.