The coalition participating in imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as the one that may get involved in Yemen, seems to have neither a clear exit strategy in the event of a protracted confrontation, nor an exit strategy to incite the leaders entrenched in their seat of power and refusing to step down. The absence of such a strategy will most likely lead to further bloodshed and devastation in the countries the coalition says it seeks to save from tyrannical rule, in support of democracy and reform. What is also lacking here is the rather crucial popular awareness of the costs of what may come after victory, so as for the shock of bitter reality not to tear apart the fabric of the new assembly emerging from the bliss of liberation.
Some world leaders seem all too ready to ride the wave of Arab uprisings, presenting themselves as their champions. There are also those leaders who have taken upon themselves the task of liberation under the guise of democracy, while their intervention seeks to further the oil interests of their countries’ major corporations. And then there are those who could not stand idly by, while the revolution of reform was being brutally crushed, as in the case of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and were dragged into the coalition endorsing the “responsibility to protect” civilians under such circumstances.
Whatever their purpose or motive may be, global and local leaders must ensure that they, whether inadvertently or intentionally, do not mislead the civilian opposition or the armed revolutionaries by adopting their cause today, without paying heed to their prospects and the consequences of possible disappointment.
It would be better for the Arab peoples rising from under the burdens of submission and obedience to be prepared for worst case scenarios, so that they may not suffer frustration, disillusionment and lose their trust in change. Indeed, fears of what is to come after the change in Tunisia and in Egypt have begun to surface, especially with respect to the scenario where Islamist political parties reap what the secular youth revolution has sown.
In parallel, there are growing fears that Libya might be reduced to rubble or might be partitioned. This is an especially valid concern given that Gaddafi is insisting on settling the matter on the battlefield and that the military intervention that the international coalition came after the international community closed the door to political engagement with Gaddafi.
Meanwhile, the Arab world is rife with concerns about possible sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites, which started in Bahrain and began reverberating in Lebanon, with Iran being the common denominator between the two cases.
Then there is Yemen, with the nightmarish situation, in view of the political time bombs waiting to explode there, and which go beyond the issue of Ali Abdullah Saleh clinging to power. The consequences are far reaching should there be a regrettable failure of the international community in engaging in mediation or negotiation before matters deteriorate.
Although delayed action and short-sightedness seem to have driven everyone to the edge, and although it might already be too late, a last-minute initiative might still be able to stop the descent towards the abyss.
This does not mean that the Libyan model ought to be replicated in Yemen, in the sense of international military intervention under the umbrella of enforcing a no-fly zone. Nor should the Bahraini model be copied in Yemen, in the sense of a regional military intervention by GCC countries under the Peninsula Shield. Instead, political intervention must be carried out immediately with both the authorities and the opposition in order to provide Ali Abdullah Saleh with an exit strategy to avoid a quagmire that would require an exit strategy for all those involved.
Opinions on change in the Arab region are abundant and some are contradictory, which in the end is only natural.
There are those among the “extremist reformists” who want change at any cost, and under any circumstances. Those purport that rulers have “fabricated” the danger of Islamists in order to cling to power. They also assert that al Qaeda is a mere “invention” by these rulers and that one should not fear it or fear similar groups.
Those who champion this opinion do not want to listen to any reservations or fears regarding the revolutions of change and what they could engender, especially in terms of the organized and proactive Islamist political parties carpet-bagging these revolutions.
The extremist reformists hence want to overthrow the regimes and the regional order, and are convinced that ousting rulers is a historical achievement in and of itself. Fears in such a context are not justified, nor is there a need to think and evoke the Islamist factor or otherwise, after change has taken place. What matters for them above all is overthrowing rulers and regimes in order for true reforms to be introduced.
By contrast, “moderate reformists” are concerned about a scenario whereby the change brought about by reformists and secularists would be exploited by the traditional Islamists.
Such reformists do not want to overthrow the regime as an end in itself, regardless of who would fill the power vacuum. In their view, the Arab uprisings and revolutions have awakened rulers to the inevitability of reform.
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