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Syrian Rebels: What the US Withdrawl of Aid Means

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When it comes to US foreign policy, generally we go one of two directions to exercise influence: huge gobs of money, or our huge military. However, due to our drawn-out engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, many Americans are increasingly weary of military use, and so we turn to our monetary influence. This past week in Syria, some Islamist rebels captured key rebel warehouses which acted as the foreign aid intake and processing facilities. So, in response to this instability, the US cut our monetary influence to the rebels, ending all nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels. Without this aid, the rebels will be scrambling to take all necessary steps to get the aid back. With a civil war which has waged on for almost three years and has taken the lives of over 120,000 people, the cutting of this nonlethal aid could diminish any advantages the rebels have gained; after all, if they are unable to feed themselves, they will be unable to fight. So, in response to the cutting of aid, the rebels will naturally scramble to form a more moderate, all-inclusive and Western-backed coalition, meaning that the aid cutoff will have short term detrimental effects, in the long term it may expedite the end of the civil war.

To understand this point of view, it is important to first look at how weak the rebels are without the backing of the West. The obvious dependencies are on aid; rebels depend on the West for arms and basic necessities alike. The Syrian people as a whole also depend on the goodwill of the West to ensure that refugees in countries like Turkey can at least live (although certainly not comfortably). But beyond the obvious, the rebels are dependent on the West to represent them diplomatically. Understanding why will require a slight detour into an explanation of the actual makeup of the rebels.

When looking at other civil wars, they are certainly never clean wars; in civil war, determining loyalty is often a very messy process. However, the situation in Syria is considerably worse. The Syrian rebels are fighting from a diverse set of backgrounds, for a number of different goals. Sure, there are “rebel leaders” who the West officially recognizes to have control over some number of people, but many rebels are fighting in small packs with a single leader, but ultimately not looking for direction from some higher up. Throw in the presence of al-Qaeda, and the situation is increasingly messy. A large part of the reason the US has tried to keep its hands clean of the whole situation is simply that we have no idea who to help and who not to help. The entire rebel force is essentially leaderless, and even the “leaders” have very little sway among large swaths of the rebel forces. This not only creates a complicated situation, it also creates a weak force.

The culmination of this weak force was seen when Syrian President Bashir al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. The rebel forces, while they condemned this use of force, really could not do anything to stop it. It was not until the US an Russia brokered a deal to get the weapons out of Assad’s hands that the situation was able to be dealt with. Sure, everyone knew that Assad had violated international law, but without the rebel forces having organization, they were unable to truly do anything about it. This lack of organization has forced the rebels to be dependent on the West for basically everything.

So, with this dependence on the West, which is being weaned, and a lack of organization, where do the rebels go from here? Rather than let the infighting between Free Syrian Army (the group that had previously controlled the warehouses) and the Islamic Front (the group which gained control of the warehouses) continue, the rebels have to find a balance between the two. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is already Western-backed, but there was a fear for a long time that if they incorporate the Islamic Front (IF), they would lose Western backing because countries like the US generally are against Islamism. But, in an unprecedented move, the US recently announced that they would be open to the IF being folded into the FSA, striking a balance between moderate secularism and Islamism. The FSA would be wise to heed this advice. If the FSA and the IF can combine their efforts, then hopefully the West will be back on board with aid, and eventually the rebels will be successful in their endeavors to overthrow Assad. If the efforts are combined effectively, Syria may be able to become what has, up until this point, only existed as an oxymoron: a stable Middle Eastern democracy.

Filed under International
Dec 15, 2013

Chemical Weapons in Syria – A Potential Turning Point

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Believe it or not, the bloody conflict now known as the Syrian Civil War started out in 2011 with a glimmer of hope.  It was originally viewed as an expansion of the Arab Spring protests and had the laudable goal of wresting power from autocratic Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Unfortunately, Assad’s government responded with violence, refusing to acquiesce to the demands of the rebels, and rebel groups have been fighting government-led forces ever since.  The resulting violence has led to a estimated death toll of over 100,000.  Even in the face of this devastating statistic, world leaders have still been hesitant to support the rebels, largely due to the influence of al-Qaeda among certain rebel factions.  While the rebels have received some assistance over the course of the two year conflict, it has been extremely limited.

Although Assad has been able to count on minimal interference from Western nations in Syria’s conflict in the past, the situation is changing rapidly, and he may have pushed his luck too far.  Evidence has been stacking up that Assad’s government not only has been using chemical weapons, but also that these weapons have been used against innocent civilians.  These actions are grievous violations of international law.  With these new revelations about Assad’s likely war crimes, rhetoric against Assad’s government has been increasing.  President Obama has previously stated that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line and trigger foreign intervention.  It is unclear exactly what that foreign intervention will be, although the fear of becoming entangled in yet another drawn out conflict in the Middle East will likely pressure the U.S. to favor strategies like missile strikes over more direct military combat.

This backlash against Assad’s regime goes beyond the borders of the U.S., and international support seems to be lining up for military intervention.  One country, however, is withholding support for any intervention.  Russia, which has been vociferously arguing for Western powers to stay away from the Syrian conflict over the past two years, still has yet to change its position.  Increased tensions with Russia will have to be a risk factored into any intervention plan in Syria, but it does appear that the vast majority of Western nations, including the permanent U.N. Security Council members France, the U.K. and the U.S., are advocates of some form of intervention.

Even if a limited missile strike is the ultimate intervention these allies (among other nations) decide on, extreme caution still needs to be exercised.  Assad’s government may be committing grievous atrocities, but that doesn’t mean the rebels are saints.  Western nations are sure to fear creating a power vacuum that could allow al-Qaeda affiliated groups to seize more power in the midst of the destruction the war has caused.  Syria is currently a breeding ground for terrorism and, as we all now know, also has chemical weapons.  These weapons are bad enough in the hands of Assad, but they could be even worse in the hands of extremists.

Syria is an extremely delicate situation, but many world leaders have finally decided a line has been crossed that calls for intervention.  Let’s all hope that whatever intervention actually occurs is a success.  Thousands of lives, and stability in an increasingly unstable Middle East, depend on it.

Update: World leaders have avoided a direct military strike on Syria in favor of a deal that allows chemical weapons to be confiscated and taken out of Assad’s control.  Follow this link for more information.

Filed under International
Aug 27, 2013

What’s going on in Syria?

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In the early months of 2011, the middle eastern nation of Syria experienced anti-government protests as a result of the growing Arab Spring movement.  But back then, almost no one expected that those protests would morph into a more than two year long, extremely bloody civil war resulting in tens of thousands of deaths nationwide.  While this gloomy scenario was unexpected, it has transformed into an unfortunate reality for not just Syria, but also the entire world.

How did this remarkable transition from clustered protests to widespread civil war occur?  One explanation lies in the fact that while leaders of many other nations affected by the Arab Spring were hesitant to respond with excessive violence, Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad quickly resorted to violent means to quell protests.  Not willing to allow a totalitarian crackdown against descent, rebels responded with violence as well.  As both sides stepped up their tactics, the conflict quickly devolved into an all-out war that has included the targeting of civilians.

Unfortunately, the conflict does not appear to be approaching any satisfactory conclusion.  Recent attempts at peace negotiations have been met with extreme skepticism from all parties, as Syria seems to be too entrenched in conflict to find an easy resolution.  Worse, recent evidence shows that chemical weapons may have been used in the conflict.  The use of chemical weapons demonstrates that the war is escalating, exacerbating the conflict in the face of international hopes to stop the fighting.

But even though the majority of the international community has attempted to curb the fighting, these attempts have been extremely limited in their effectiveness.  A major factor for this limited success has been the overwhelming influence of Russia, a nation that not only has veto power on the United Nations Security Council but also has been supplying arms to Assad.  The United States government has deliberated on whether or not the U.S. should intervene more directly than Russia has allowed the U.N. to do, but so far, the rebels are only receiving limited support from western governments.

Russia is not the only reason the U.S. is hesitant to offer more assistance to the rebels, however.  Al-Qaeda influence has spread into many rebel groups, forcing the United States to question whether they are willing to help defeat Assad if doing so might hand the country over to terrorists.  Basically, the U.S. has found its foreign policy stuck between a rock and a hard place, and while it may be uncomfortable with the status quo of civil war, it doesn’t want to commit itself to either the rebels or Assad.

The idea of a status quo works well for Syria right now, as little action seems to be occurring that could transition the country towards peace.  However, we must remember that the status quo so many nations seem comfortable with has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.  While an easy path to stability and peace in Syria seems unlikely, that doesn’t mean the international community should give up on Syria.

Filed under International
May 22, 2013

The Non-Aligned Movement Summit: Unique Perspectives

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In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, in Belgrade, an organization called the Non-Aligned Movement, or NAM, was created. NAM’s central tenet was to not align themselves with or against any major power bloc. At a time when NATO and the Warsaw Pact dominated, many nations did not want to side, thus NAM was created. Yet, despite their attempt not to align themselves, NAM has summits regularly and issues declarations on where the member countries stand on certain issues. While many key players in the world are not members of NAM, the group is an organization of many developing nations. Made up almost entirely of South American, African, Middle Eastern and Asian nations, NAM often demonstrates the stance that the developing world has on an issue. Key members include India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, South Africa and North Korea. Beyond those countries, many consider NAM to be made up of a lot of countries that have very little influence in the global arena. Yet, on August 31sth, after meeting in Tehran, Iran, NAM issued the Tehran Declaration, a declaration that is very important, both in what it says and what it leaves out.

Arguably the most important part of the document is its statement on Iran. Forces in the west, primarily the US, have continually condemned Iran’s actions, not only in developing a nuclear program, but in continuing to want to enrich uranium. Additionally, The UN Security Council demanded Iran halt uranium enrichment until it is made certain they are not seeking a nuclear weapon. Yet NAM took the entirely opposite approach. Not only did NAM defend Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, but they backed Iran’s right to enrich, a claim that almost no one had agreed with until this time. While much of this had to do with Iran’s advantage on home turf, this also shows that most of these nations, including nuclear nations like India, Pakistan and North Korea, mostly have nothing wrong with Iran’s nuclear program. This may be for a number of reasons. The first may be that many countries see Iran’s nuclear program as perfectly peaceful, and have more faith in Iran not creating a weapon than the western world. The second may be that, even if they do see Iran getting a nuclear weapon, they may be okay with that, in order to balance out power in the Middle East with Israel. Whatever the reason, clearly NAM members see something in Iran that the western world does not. Given that many of these nations are closer allies with Iran than the west, they may turn out to be right.

Aside from what was stated in the Declaration, the other most important issue discussed at the meeting, and then not mentioned in the Declaration, was the issue of Syria. Initially, Iran was unwilling to try to garner support of Bashar al-Assad’s government. However, after Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, surprised Iran by heavily criticizing Assad’s regime, Iran tried to lobby support for his regime. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei even struck an indirect blow to Morsi, possibly alienating Iran from Egypt, and many other NAM members. Yet in the end, Iran did not get their way, and there was no mention of Syria in the Tehran Declaration. Yet it is fairly evident that most members had their support behind the rebels more than behind Assad.

While the Tehran Declaration may not change anything in the immediate future, NAM acts as a window into the developing world, and gives a voice to many countries which do not normally get one. The consensus to allow Iran to enrich, while officially not agreeing on Syria shows what many, often outspoken nations, can and cannot agree upon. There is dissent in NAM, as in any organization, but NAM shows opinions that often go overlooked because of the dominance of the US, China, Russia and Europe. While those nations will continue to dominate international relations, more attention should be paid to NAM in order to understand a greater consensus of the world.

Filed under International
Sep 5, 2012

Al-Qaeda in Syria, A Dangerous Development

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Westerners have tended to side with the rebels in Syria in their fight against Assad’s government.  The rationale is simple: Westerners view the rebels as freedom fighters and Assad as a dictatorial figure.  But these empathetic feelings may soon disappear.

Suspicions of al-Qaeda working in support of the rebels have been growing.  If al-Qaeda gains influence within voids created by a weakening Assad government, Syria could become a breeding ground for terrorism.

This creates a problem for the U.S. and other Western nations.  Theoretically, as nations pledged to democracy, they should support the ousting of an autocrat.  However, the collapse of Assad’s regime may only serve to further destabilize the region and further the spread of extremists.  The possibility of democracy is coupled with a threat of instability.

Up until now, the United States has appeared supportive of policies that allow the rebels to obtain arms through the Turkish-Syrian border.  However, the news of al-Qaeda influence gives the U.S. reason to double think that strategy.  A few decades ago, similar policies allowed the Taliban to obtain guns in order to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan.  Fast forward twenty years, and the U.S. government regretted that decision.  U.S. military leaders will not want to make the same mistake with Syria.

Then again, stopping Syrian rebels from receiving arms only serves to tip the fight towards Assad.  To fix this, the United States also has the option of trying to establish stronger diplomatic relations with the rebellion’s leadership.  The rebellion is actually based in Turkey, and since both the U.S. and Turkey have taken a strong stance against Assad, the two countries share a mutual interest in a strong but al-Qaeda free rebellion.

However, it is not exactly clear how much control rebel leaders headquartered in Turkey have on ground operations in Syria.  The U.S. has no way of telling if the rebellion’s leaders would have a way to successfully remove al-Qaeda influence from the rebellion.  And since the extent of al-Qaeda’s reach is still a mystery, the U.S. does not even know how widespread the problem is.

Because of the many unknowns still surrounding the situation, no extreme action should be expected in the short term.  Still, the danger a nascent al-Qaeda influence presents will likely impact international reactions in regards to the Syrian conflict.  Actions by the international community against Assad are more difficult when the alternative is just as scary.

Filed under International
Jul 25, 2012

Continued Violence in Syria: The Rebellion Reaches Damascus

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The 17 month old Arab Spring Rebellion in Syria reached a turning point Wednesday when a bombing attack killed both the Defense Minister and President Bashir al-Assad’s brother-in-law.   The rebels, who are often viewed as being disjointed, proved that they have the ability to target influential individuals who are close to Assad.

But in the case of this bombing, the location is just as important as the targets.  Occurring in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the rebels were able to attack Assad where he should have been the strongest.  Nascent organization amongst the rebels, especially through the Syrian National Council, has been increasing, meaning that the rebellion is providing a more unified opposition to the Assad regime.  Partially for this reason, the Red Cross has declared the conflict in Syria an official civil war, which helps to legitimize the rebel organization.

The rebels may have shown their increasing power by staging an attack in Assad’s stronghold, but that is no guarantee the rebels are strong enough to eventually beat Assad’s forces and take control of the government.  If anything, it represents the latest stage in an ongoing escalation of the conflict.  Rebels have managed to obtain military supplies from across the Turkish border, and Assad has likely been receiving weapons from Russia.

Still, if the rebels now have the ability to target powerful individuals in Damascus, Assad is likely to lose the support of some of the Syrian elite.  Direct clashes between the rebels and Assad’s forces will most likely only lead to a bloody war of attrition.  However, by stirring unrest through the ranks of Assad’s most powerful supporters, the rebels may have a chance to undermine Assad’s regime and weaken his grip on power.

The rebels in Syria have made a bold attack, but they must now work to continue their attempts.  One dent is not enough to collapse Assad’s government, and yet it is most certainly a step in the right direction.

Filed under International
Jul 18, 2012

Russia and Syria

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Tensions have renewed between rebels and the government in Syria.  The scary news about the worsening conflict is that both sides appear to be using increasingly more destructive weapons, making everyday life more dangerous for citizens of the war torn nation.

International attempts to ameliorate the situation have been minimal.  A ceasefire, backed by the U.N., was put in place, but it failed to create an end to the deaths.  One of the reasons more has not been done is the reluctance of Russia to support the rebels.  Russia, with its permanent position on the United Nations Security Council, is able to veto measures they disagree with.

The reason Russia has been hesitant to support the Syrian uprising, or at the very least condemn Bashir al-Assad’s regime, is that Assad’s Syria has been an ally for Russia.  Additionally, Assad has allegedly bought arms from Russia, giving Russia a valuable trade partner that might be lost if the rebels take power.

Other nations have been critical of Russia’s actions, but they have not been all that outspoken until recently, when the U.S. accused Russia of supplying Assad with attack helicopters.

The U.S. is right to worry.  Thousands have already died in Syria’s bloody conflict, and Assad’s forces have commonly been indiscriminate in who they attack.  Worse news is that with a powerful weapons supplier like Russia involved, it is hard to see the Syrian conflict ending anytime soon.

The best and most obvious course of action would be pursuading Russia to end their support.  This, of course, is easier said than done.  A great deal of political capital was already expended convincing Russia to allow intervention in Libya last year.

External pressure is a difficult path forward, but perhaps we can expect some internal pressure for change as well.  Vladimir Putin’s election to a third term as Russia’s president in a vote marred with concerns over fraud has ignited large-scale protests.

Russia’s opposition has been emboldened by both the fraud allegations and by better performances in recent elections.  While Russia’s political system is still heavily stacked in Putin’s favor, the current political climate seems to be helping the opposition.

Internal change is promising, but it has no timetable.  International pressure seems  difficult, but an increasingly precarious situation in Syria may make it a more feasible solution.  As the deaths continue, it will become harder for Russia to continue their support.  For now, harsher dialogue is a better path forward than quiet acquiescence.  We must remember that Russia is a key player in fixing a broken Syria, and any progress, internal or external, is welcome.

 

 

Filed under International
Jun 13, 2012

Syria Ceasefire

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As the sun rose Thursday morning in Syria, a United Nations and Arab League backed ceasefire was scheduled to occur.  However, no one knew for sure whether or not the plan would be effective or if the fighting would continue.  Both sides, government forces and rebels, seemed hesitant to accept the plan and made it clear that they would still respond with violence if provoked into doing so.  Skepticism about the effectiveness of the ceasefire seemed to be everywhere.

Amazingly, throughout Thursday, violence was successfully reduced and the fighting had mostly subsided.  There were exceptions, and some skirmishes did occur, but these skirmishes luckily did not escalate to the point where the nationwide fighting resumed.  By and large, the ceasefire accomplished its main goal.

And yet, no drastic measures towards peace have been taken.  Both the government and the rebels still mistrust each other, blocking any peace negotiations.  Stopping the bullets is one step, but the creation of a peaceful solution to the violence is still a long way away.  Offering a helping hand, the United Nations wants to expedite the road to peace by sending in a team of monitors in order to watch over the situation and try to preserve the terms of the ceasefire.

Maintaining the present peace is important.  Syria is still extremely volatile, and the main reason for this volatility is that the Syrian government has not retreated their forces away from populated areas.  This failure to act by the Syrian government is sparking international concern that the ceasefire will not last for long.  One minor incident could disrupt the fragile status quo.

Another problem that the U.N. faces is internal disagreements over the endgame for Syria.  Many countries, including the United States, have stated that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must vacate his office for peace to be achieved, but Russia and China have both used their veto power in the United Nations Security Council to stop any direct action against Assad’s regime.  No international consensus has been reached, and the current six-point plan that the United Nations is using to guide its actions does not specifically mention a change in leadership.

The question here is whether or not peace can be achieved in Syria with Assad still maintaining his power.  While the U.N. has vaguely asked Assad to address the concerns of his people, it seems doubtful that rebels will accept nominal change after risking their lives fighting government forces.  Through internal indecision and disagreement, the Security Council has complicated its hope for a peaceful path forward by not having a shared vision for Syria’s future.  Still, their successful ceasefire represents some progress.

But what if the ceasefire falls apart?  If the blame clearly lies on Assad’s forces, there is a chance Russia and China may yield to pressure and allow more stringent methods to be taken against Assad.  Then again, they may not, and the only result will be more bloodshed.  If the violence is restarted by the rebels, the situation will increase in complexity as the moderate support the rebels have enjoyed from the Arab League may evaporate, possibly throwing Syria into a full-fledged civil war.

A lack of international cohesion on a plan for Syria has created a complicated path forward.  Still, as long as the ceasefire holds, the U.N. will have an opportunity to attempt to sow the seeds of peace.

 

Filed under International
Apr 12, 2012

Problems in Syria

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(Update November 2012: This article details Syrian problems in general.  You can also read about Russian arms and al-Qaeda’s influence in Syria)

When the Arab Spring descended upon Syria, the hope was that protesters could rid themselves of their despotic leader Bashar al-Assad with as little bloodshed as possible.  Unfortunately, the situation in Syria has been rapidly deteriorating, and the nation has fallen into a civil war.  Assad had been using the army to forcefully quell protests against his rule.  However, many in the army refused to turn on their fellow citizens, and desertions from the army’s ranks helped grow the numbers of rebels who now are trying to depose Assad.  In spite of this, Assad still has the majority of the army on his side, and he has been using it to wreak destruction among his people.  Thousands have already died.

The international community has stayed short of any military intervention, citing that the no-fly zone used in Libya would not be worth its while in Syria.  But many nations still want to do something, and a condemnation of Assad’s regime was proposed in the U.N.  Shockingly, both China and Russia vetoed the action.  Not wanting to experience a bloody civil war in the region, the Arab League decided to press the U.N. further, and they convinced the United Nations Security Council to send a peacekeeping force into Syria to help calm the violence and negotiate a ceasefire.  Of course, ceasefires are more easily proposed then enacted, and all attempts at creating a ceasefire have failed in the long run.

Economic sanctions have already been enacted by the Arab League and many other countries, but these attempts at undermining Assad’s government have amounted to little success.  Still, the general trend has been that more is being planned as more entities come together.

That last point is an important one.  While Russia refused to allow foreign intervention within Syria by use of their veto, a meeting with President Obama on the subject at least shows a dialogue has been started .  In addition, the cohesion that the Arab League has shown throughout their dealings with Syria demonstrates the growing effectiveness of that body.  Also important to note is that Assad seems to be running out of friends.  Iran, an important ally to Syria, is experiencing severe economic upheaval due to Western sanctions.  The Iranians barely have the money to keep themselves afloat, and it has become much more difficult for them to provide aid for Assad.

This does not mean that Assad is finished; he is in fact far from losing his power.  As long as he can keep control of the military, he can maintain his safety and stop rebels from gaining power.  Strengthening his position is the fact that members of the international community will be wary of invading Syria with the aim of ultimately removing Assad.  After all, the cautionary tale of Iraq shows that this path is a dangerous and costly one to follow.

The international community has a decision to make regarding Syria.  While it was first hesitant to intervene, an increased role by the U.N. has spurred hope that there are paths to restore stability and end slaughter.  The fate of the Syrian people rests in the balance, but the path forward is not yet clear.  The international community must find a way to prevent Assad from dragging Syria into a civil war while working to stay out of any violence themselves.

Filed under International
Feb 12, 2012

The Middle East’s Future

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I remember watching Obama’s announcement earlier this year that American military force was going to ‘help out’ in Libya.  At the time, I tried to decide whether I agreed with his decision or if I felt that the conflict was not worth our money.  Since hindsight is 20/20, I can now say that operations in Libya have ended quite successfully, and that the Libyan rebels could not have achieved their victory without the help of international intervention.  However, looking to the past is quite easy, and what the Libyans are now concerned about is their future.

The best place to turn to as a bellwether for Libya’s future is Tunisia, Libya’s neighbor to the northwest and instigator of many of the revolutions that have occurred (and are still ongoing) in the Middle East this year.  After the Tunisians ousted their ‘President’ Ben Ali this January, a transitional government, much like the one currently controlling Libya, was formed.  This transitional government has been working on organizing elections for the past nine months and most recently oversaw an election for the Constituent Assembly.  The election has been hailed as particularly important because this assembly will be charged with creating Libya’s new Constitution.  That’s why many Westerners were unnerved when an Islamic party won a plurality of seats.

But this is no cause for concern, as it makes sense that a moderate Islamic nation would want a moderate Islamic government. While Americans are used to near complete separation of church and state, the combining of the two is fairly common in the rest of the world.  As long as a government is not extreme in its execution of religious matters, the combination of religion and democratic government does not need to be looked upon as either evil or impossible.  Many of these groups, such as the Islamist Brotherhood in Egypt, served as a voice of political opposition during the years of one party rule.  It only makes sense that, after democracy has been established, this opposition will come to the forefront.

Speaking of Egypt, it is important to note that the steps to an election there have been rockier than in Tunisia.  This is a cause for concern, and international pressure must be focused on maintaining the scheduled dates for the Egyptian elections.  After all, they have already pushed back the date well into next year.

Egypt, Libya and Tunisia will benefit from renewed democracy in other ways because stable governments will bring renewed tourism.  All three countries have miles of Mediterranean shoreline that can be used to attract visitors and create a flow of money into these economies.  Oil is crucial, albeit most crucial in Libya, where a more friendly government should lead to an increase in oil production as western conglomerates snap up deals.  If governmental control is given to the people, more economic success can be shared by all.

It would also be unfair to not recognize the current troubles in both Syria and Yemen.  International pressure is just beginning to pick up in these countries. Hopefully, if the trend continues, democratic governments can be established in these countries as well.  The government in Syria, sadly, has used excessive violence to combat attempts for change.  Yemen is also tricky, but mainly because of its tribal nature and the growing presence of al-Qaeda within its borders.  Still, even with the problems that have occurred in these countries, the overarching trend in the Middle East is that of people yearning for democracy.  And even if that democracy is a little different than what westerners might expect, the Arab Revolutions are a positive turning point and an exciting hope for the future. -TM

Filed under International
Oct 30, 2011

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