Intensifying storm

A damaged area hit by pro-government forces is seen as clashes continue with the Free Syrian Army in the Old Town of Aleppo November 2, 2012. (REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)

For some time now, there have been fears that the Arab Spring phenomenon has been heading toward an Arab winter, but recent developments are moving the process in the direction of a hurricane.

In Tunisia, the swiftest and least bloody toppling of a dictator was the “easy” part. But authorities there are now presiding over a steady deterioration of a country where stability and an openness to the outside world are key to economic viability. This week, Tunisians have witnessed a government unable to provide resources to, and protection for, the very people they expect to ensure stability throughout the country – policemen.

In Libya, the toppling of the Gadhafi regime led some to believe the country would be able to focus on economic and social development. Instead, the executive and legislative authorities are under siege by non-state militias, while regional unrest continues in Bani Walid.

Egypt’s new leaders have also been forced to deal with non-state, extremist elements in the Sinai, and have failed to assure the general public that they can smoothly navigate the conflict between Islamists and others when it comes to drawing up a new Constitution.

Yemen managed to see its head of state finally leave office, but the country faces various challenges as Al-Qaeda fighters and its own separatist movement in the south continue to mar the political transition.

The popular protest movement in Bahrain never really went away, and the country is in lockdown, according to an official declaration earlier this week.

Sudan is headed toward a Somalia-like situation, and while some popular protests tried to benefit from the Arab Spring momentum, the political system remains characterized by poverty, corruption, violence and dictatorship.

Street protests also touched Iraq a while back, but did nothing to shake up a system in which regional and sectarian divisions and corruption still hold sway.

Kuwait is embroiled in a struggle for power between the executive and legislative branches. It’s actually a long-standing conflict, but not even the impetus of the Arab Spring prompted the authorities to figure out a solution and preserve stability.

Syria’s horrific tragedies are well known to all, and Lebanon has seen instability elsewhere having repercussions on an already-dysfunctional political system.

The situation is the polar opposite of the Renaissance era centuries ago, when the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe corresponded to the Arab-Islamic civilization’s greatest achievements on many fronts.

The only difference in the interconnected world of today is that violence and extremism generated in this part of the world also spills over to other countries.

Whatever magnitude the hurricane reaches, it will have ramifications that go beyond the countries of the stumbling Arab Spring.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 03, 2012, on page 7.




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