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Thursday, March 29, 2012
Arab States Redraw The Map Of Alliances After Revolutions
By Jamal Khashoggi
Arab Summit in Baghdad
Syria's army cruelly and stupidly shells its own people and storms its cities,
the so-called "axis of resistance" stretching from Tehran to Damascus
is falling apart. Said axis spent the last decade waging a cold war against the
"bloc of moderates" led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt in partnership with
Jordan, the UAE and Morocco.
to that divide, Arab leaders forged all sorts of axes and alliances. Some
survived and evolved, others fell by the wayside. Positions changed, plots
hatched and even blood was spilt during the process.
Arabs predestined to leave one axis and enter another, or is that something of
year 2011 brought down a curtain on an old Arab era. A new one is still taking
shape. The maps are many and their lines are yet to be defined. What has
transpired so far breaks up Arabs into three groups.
are the stable countries that withstood the spring of radical change but
welcomed reform. This group includes Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners.
Arab Spring countries - namely Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and, certainly
before long, Syria - are undergoing political, social and economic revolutions
encompassing their ruling elites and the basic nature of their regimes.
countries of constitutional reform are Morocco and Jordan, where the regimes
remain in place but evolve and allow new ruling elites to work their way into
power without usurping it. By a stretch of the imagination, Kuwait and Bahrain
could be included in this group.
the touchline are: Algeria, which has every reason to be in the second group;
Lebanon, where political change hinges on the outcome in Syria; and Iraq, which
would need a mystic to read its future.
new alliances and axes emerge, they would not conform to the outdated map, but
to the wishes of new ruling elites, to geopolitical realities and, primarily,
to economic considerations as politics and ideologies fade along with the
dim-witted quest for "leadership" of the Arab world.
the old Arab era, state-building was a new experience. Maps and borders had yet
to become permanent, and infighting among the grandees was natural. Then came
the military coups and international interference.
for agreement are greater in this new era - except that past experience shows
that Arabs prefer to take the wrong turn. So, better to expect the worst if we
want to avoid it.
most probable confrontation would pit the Muslim Brotherhood axis against the
axis of stability. People are already inciting this with speculation about the
Muslim Brotherhoods' aspirations to topple regimes in the stable states, and
that their new-found power in the Arab Spring states has emboldened their
counterparts in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf to move against their
governments, making confrontation inevitable.
I wonder: does an axis of Muslim Brothers exist?
an axis could be visualised running from Egypt to Libya and on to Tunisia,
bypassing Algeria (for now), and reaching Morocco. Also included would be
Sudan, which is governed by Islamists who must be so relieved to see their
counterparts govern Egypt.
the east, there is Hamas in Gaza on the one hand, and Syria's opposition on the
other. And the axis would not be complete without Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his
Justice and Development Party in Turkey.
is hypothetically correct, but partners in a Muslim Brotherhood alliance are
unlikely, at least for now, to agree on common foreign or economic policies.
They are not of the same fabric, although the common denominator is
Ennahda Party is unlike Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, for example, with
intellectual and organisational variations in each of the movements that will
take years to settle. They are all making their way through uncharted
territory, getting to know one another after being underground for decades.
of incarceration, exile and adverse circumstances tore the various Brotherhood
organisations from their original shared platform. This is especially true of
Morocco and Sudan's "Brothers" who refuse the label. Egypt, Jordan,
Syria and Kuwait's "Brothers" are perhaps the most committed to the
each of these countries belongs to an alliance other than the "Muslim
why talk of a Muslim Brotherhood axis to challenge other partnerships is off
the mark. Arab states are interdependent in so many respects that it is
unthinkable to see them split into two blocs.
Arabia and Egypt see eye to eye by virtue of a long-standing strategic
commitment to cooperation. The Nile partnership drives Egypt and Sudan
together, without the latter distancing itself from Saudi Arabia. The Maghreb
identity of Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria keeps them together. Here, too,
I see Morocco remaining close to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and with Free Syria
how many interconnected circles can be drawn.
idea of axes is dead because the reasons for accord are innumerable. The
"Brothers" neither wish to nor can meddle in the affairs of the
stable counties. They will certainly not line up with Iran after its sectarian
support of Syria.
Arabia, in turn, does not look for a confrontation with the Brotherhood, but
for collaboration. Proof came when it received Tunisia's Prime Minister Hamadi
Jebali, who neatly sidestepped the question of the kingdom's asylum granted to
former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Mr Jebali focused instead on economic
matters, choosing to meet businessmen at every opportunity during his stay,
prompting Crown Prince Nayef to advise Saudi business leaders to invest in
same template seen in Saudi-Tunisian relations will surely reinforce the Gulf's
bonds with Egypt, whoever rules it.
-This commentary was published in The National on 30/03/2012
-Jamal Khashoggi is editor-in-chief of the planned Al-Arab news channel