The Middle East in 2013-2014

29 March 2014 | 14:19 Code : 1930696 Review General category
An essay by Mohammad Ali Sobhani, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon
The Middle East in 2013-2014

Since 2011, the Middle East region has been faced with unexpected developments to the extent that the biggest disputes between the Arab states and the Arab people displayed in widespread popular protests surprised many. The intensity of these protests was so severe that in a short period of time the governments of Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown and people proved that their determination could change the political systems of their countries. Later, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco were affected by these unrests and Arab nations welcomed social activities and raised the level of their demands. Although other Arab states were not faced with difficulties, all of the Arab countries offered concessions including financial aids to their people in order to prevent the spread of these protests and to calm the situation.

1-      In the last year, many of those countries that were concerned about the emergence of unrest and crisis in their countries felt relaxed; because Egypt, the biggest and most influential Arab country in the Arab world, was confronted with a contradictory revolution. The democratic development in Egypt was about to shake the foundation of the monarchial systems of the region. But the mismanagement of the Islamists in Egypt and the wishful thinking of the democracy-seeking people who gained victory in the anti-dictatorship Egyptian revolution caused a big part of the Egyptian society to welcome the undemocratic removal of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government and isolate them. They removed Mohammad Morsi, who until now considers himself the legitimate president of Egypt, from power and imprisoned him and brought him to trial.

2-      In the past year, the trend of democracy was not good in Egypt and the Arab world and violence and conflicts in Egypt led Arab nations towards conservatism and the authoritarian and conservative governments of the region felt relaxed. Although I believe that the differences between the army and the Islamists and the developments of the revolution and the coup have not ended yet, they have made the return to power of the Islamists impossible; this past year was not a good year for the Islamists either. In Egypt and also in Turkey, the governments are faced with challenges and the image of the moderate democracy-seeking Islamists has been damaged.

3-      This year was the year of victory in a big test for the Islamists in Tunisia, for, following the removal of Mohammad Morsi, the opposition in Tunisia also raised their voices and expressed their numerous demands. The Islamists in Tunisia proved that they act more wisely and prudently and they were able to bypass this crisis.

4-      In Morocco, the win-win game of the Islamists and the King and the democracy-seeking groups still continues and the government has the necessary authority and there are controllable social conditions in this country. It seems that the Arab kingdoms have taken considerable measures with more accuracy in order to prevent revolutions caused by rifts between the governments and the people. Certainly, the social problems of these countries will not end if social and political reforms do not happen and people’s demands will re-emerge at a suitable time and place.

5-      In the last year, conditions in crisis-stricken Syria were stormy. The continuation of the civil war, the growing presence of the terrorists and the brutal killing of both sides targeted the defenseless people of this country. There is no doubt that today the differences between the people and the government are not the cause of the conflict. Unfortunately, the people of Syria are now completely eliminated from the scene. More than 140000 dead, more than 500000 wounded and about 8 million displaced are the result of a war which was caused by the inability of a government which could not gain the satisfaction of its people.

6-      In the past year, Lebanon was also impacted by the developments in Syria. After years of civil war in Lebanon, the sounds of explosions were again heard in this country and the innocent and defenseless people became victims of war and violence. Lebanon, which was exhausted by war and sought peace and reconciliation, was affected by the ethnic disputes in Syria and the movements of powers outside of Lebanon. Despite the fact that a new government has been formed in Lebanon today which indicates the minimal agreement of the Lebanese, the same Lebanese are fighting against each other in Syria and the possibility of unrest and explosions inside Lebanon has not yet been removed. Lebanon will hold an election in the near future. Although I hope that the election would remove the differences in Lebanon and the shadow of war in this country, it seems that until the problem of Syria is resolved, no one can easily predict what would happen in Lebanon.

7-      But in Iran, with the people’s modern behavior and their presence in the election and the expression of their demands through their votes to Hassan Rohani, the possibility of war, crisis, violence and economic catastrophe was removed from Iran. The June election has imposed its message on everybody inside and outside the country and even those who have created numerous problems for the country with their policies. In Iran, there are talks of prudence and hope, resolving foreign and domestic problems and the people have hopes about the formation of national reconciliation inside the country and the signing of a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 member countries and eventually the reduction of pressures and economic problems. Although the highlight of this year was the presidential election, unfortunately the policy of elimination still continues in the country. The disqualification of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani was a bitter memory for the Revolution; just as the continuation of house arrest for some individuals is unjustifiable. Following the election, everybody expected the achievement of national reconciliation. But the situation will certainly improve in the new year. The people of Iran hope that the government of prudence and hope, which has come to power through the exemplary support of the people, will take practical measures in implementing their demands and take foreign policy out of the hands of the radicals and, by pursuing national reconciliation, utilize the full capacities of the country and the people in order to strengthen national power.

tags: egypt lebanon iran syria middle east

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