The diplomatic and psychological thriller of the current announced plan by U.S. President Barack Obama to attack Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people has now been dramatically shaped by the Russian proposal for Syria. We might draw some lessons so far.
Syria is the most dramatic moment of the Middle East today, but it is not the most consequential political development in the region today. That honor would have to go to the current attempt by the interim Egyptian government to ban the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its political party.
It has become a cliché among Levant scholars that Lebanon is a microcosm of the Middle East, and therefore a key to understanding the region. True enough. In Lebanon, the impact of the Syrian war is shaking the very foundation of the Lebanese social contract.
Geography and history dictate Lebanon’s inevitable entanglement in Syria’s civil war. Yet its own leaders are now pushing the country over the brink; they are gambling with the livelihood and safety of their people—with no regard or empathy.
I suspect that what Egypt is experiencing now is not the end of Islamist politics, but the start of its first real test in the public political sphere that is still in the process of being born in Egypt and other Arab countries.
President Morsi's refusal to employ heavy-handed tactics to stop the increasing flow of arms and militants into Sinai—and his seeming disinterest in avenging the deaths of Egyptian soldiers—led the Egyptian military to join the ranks of his detractors.
As protests spread and grew first in Istanbul, then in other parts of the country, we all struggled to conceptualize what we were witnessing. Many in Turkey opted for clear and neat narratives, which often left out other aspects of the protests and burdened events with legendary meanings ascribed onto them.
It is quite stunning to experience for the sixth time in a decade a global debate about whether Western powers should use their military superiority to attack Arab countries in order to get those Arab countries to conform to “international norms.”
On July 3, Coptic Pope Tawadros II appeared at a news conference alongside Egypt’s political and religious figure. He spoke briefly in support of President Muhamad Morsi’s ouster. It was the first time a Coptic pope had addressed Egyptians at an explicitly political forum, live on national television.
The vigorous debate about whether an American-led military strike against Syria would be appropriate and effective is heart-breaking, for it is agonizing to watch as another important Arab country follows the self-destructive trajectory of others before it, such as Iraq and Libya.
It’s the golden age of rumors in Egypt, especially with the lack of “unbiased” news sources. Add that to the nationalistic wave in the country, misconceptions get viewed as fact. Very few people will attempt to clear those misconceptions without risking to antagonize others, but it is a risk I am willing to take.
Thursday of this week was a bad day in modern Arab history. The four leading Arab cities of recent eras—Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo—simultaneously were all engulfed in bombings and urban warfare, mostly carried out with brutal savagery and cruelty against civilians in urban settings
Constitutional reform in Morocco appeared to give more power to the elected government and parliament. However, the palace has maintained a free hand to interpret the constitution and to keep the balance of power in the country in its favor.
Simplifying Egypt into the narrow dualism of ‘us versus them,’ the military has re-established a dominant role for itself on Egypt’s political stage, one that has gone largely unchallenged by the Egyptian public.
The mistake we appear to have fallen into—in the wake of Brotherhood rule—is the search for an enemy to whom we can assign all blame for previous mistakes thereby justifying otherwise unjustifiable exceptional procedures. Such a situation will lead to mistakes being committed that are just as grievous as those perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The scholarship and serious popular literature on the Arab region in much of the Western world has improved vastly in the past few years, for the simple reason that authors have been forced to write about the realities of what ordinary Arab men and women have put on the global agenda.
It is important for us, as supporters of democratization in the Arab world, to take a stand against what is happening in Egypt. Like it or not, the Muslim Brotherhood is a key player in Egyptian political life. Killing people will not solve any problems, quite the contrary. The bloody assault against the Brotherhood protesters is a shame and a serious crime.