‘The old Arab order is crumbling’

Palestinian Authority has no motivation to negotiate and compromise, now that the Islamists are gaining power all over the region.

Muslims pray in front of soldiers, Egypt_521 (photo credit: Reuters)
Muslims pray in front of soldiers, Egypt_521
(photo credit: Reuters)
The concept of the year-old “Arab Spring” is borrowed from the Prague Spring of 1968, but they actually have very little in common, according to Dr. Shmuel Bar, a Middle East expert who served for 30 years as an Israeli intelligence officer. Rather, he sees “a complete change of the status quo which existed in the region for decades. What we are going towards is a Middle East dominated by the Islamist movements from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Salafi jihadist movements.”
The dramatic regional transformation can be seen in one Arab country after another, Bar recently explained in a rare public appearance to brief the foreign press corps in Jerusalem.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists were the only groups organized enough to seize power when the Mubarak regime fell, assessed Bar, currently director of studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya.
“The secular forces in [Egypt] have no chance of getting their act together,” said Bar. “The Army cannot take control the way the Turkish army did in the past, when Islamist forces became too powerful, because the US and Europe simply won’t let them.
“The Brotherhood and the Salafists know that they are the preferred regime in the eyes of the West, not because this is ideally what the West wanted but… because the international community thinks it should go along with trends in the region.”
He contends that in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists will always be trying to get “one up” on each other to prove their fundamentalist credentials, and that the nation’s ancient Coptic Christian community will be the biggest losers, along with possibly Israel.
Regarding Syria, Bar called it a “Humpty-Dumpty” case very similar to Libya and Yemen. In other words, the country’s various tribal and sectarian components cannot be put back together again in the same way.
“Once Syria and Libya and Yemen had become chaotic, then the external force that you need in order to bring it back together is either money or military force. Nobody has the money for that today, and certainly no one is prepared to use military force to do that,” gauged Bar.
He estimates that the longer the collapse of the Assad regime drags out, and as control over its security forces erodes, the more chaotic things will be when the current revolt finally succeeds in toppling Bashar Assad.
“This has already happened in Libya, which will not be a unified state again. Libya was always an amalgamation of tribes. You can’t expect the tribes which supported [Muammar] Gaddafi to allow other tribes to rule over them, because they know they will not survive. So you will have a situation where there is never any one dominant group controlling Libya,” said Bar.
He believes the same scenario is underway in Yemen and – more ominously – that “the disintegration of Yemen is creeping into Saudi Arabia, where the Saudis, with their own problems of succession, are helpless to do anything to stop it. I think in 10 years we will be talking about the ‘Arabian Peninsula’ instead of Saudi Arabia.”
In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood movement is more Salafist and violent than any other Muslim Brotherhood branch, Bar maintained.
“The Arabs in the Gulf see Iran on the ascendance, with Shi’ite governments in Iraq and Lebanon, and they assume that it is part of a conspiracy by the West,” Bar added.
“There is no such thing as bad luck in the Arab mindset. If something happens, it’s because someone wanted it to happen. They see Iran rising and the Americans not stopping them and you will never convince them that this is not intentional. So from their point of view, the US and the West have joined with their mortal enemies in Iran against them,” he concluded.
Concerning the peace process, Bar insisted that the Palestinian Authority has no motivation to negotiate and compromise, now that the radicals are gaining power all over the region. “The region is becoming allergic to compromise, and the PA is not going to be the only one not dancing to the music,” he quipped.
“We are seeing a disintegrated Middle East, with the potential for a poly-nuclear Middle East. You have Iran, Turkey and Egypt… these three states will be vying for power in a great game, each one projecting a different Islamic model,” Bar surmised. “Meanwhile, Israel’s security envelope has been worn thin.”