Winners take nothing

Posted by Caabu on 14 Aug 2013

Chris Doyle

The crisis in Egypt has only highlighted that the winner takes all mentality is sadly much alive in the Middle East at the moment. In Egypt, the military and Muslim Brotherhood will not cede an inch. In Syria the fight between the regime and its opponents of various hues degenerates daily; and in Israel where the Netanyahu coalition is undermining chances for peace even as they engage in talks with the PLO. In Iraq, Nouri Al-Maliki has been accused of increasing dictatorship and excluding Iraqi Sunnis from power.

The reality is: any ‘winner’ won’t win much. They are not even winners. The worst case is Syria. At the end of this appalling crisis, what crumbs will be left for whomever ‘triumphs?’  No doubt the military will prevail in Egypt but only at the cost of hundreds, thousands of lives and a devastated economy. Violence will continue. In Israel, the colonial process (tamely called settlement expansion) will only engender the sort of hatred and anger that will not bring safety and security to either Israelis or Palestinians. The blockade of Gaza, made worse by the events in Egypt, has been a major crisis for years but threatens to plummet to new depths.

And the winners will be… those who market and luxuriate in hatred, xenophobia and extremism. Al Qaida has been handed a new lease of life in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and North Africa including the Sinai. Sectarian hatred and attacks are growing. The attacks on the Alawi strongholds in hills above Lattakia in Syria risk further sectarian cleansing.  Shiaphobia, not helped by extremist media broadcasts largely from the Gulf, is spreading. Shafi al-Ajami, a Kuwaiti Salafist who channels aid to Syrian rebels, has publicly condoned the torture of Hizbullah fighters and expressed the desire to slit their throats. (He has just been taken off air). There was a very sectarian poll on Al Jazeera Arabic in June 2013 with the question: who is more to blame for the Syrian civil war, the Sunnis or the Shia? 95.7 per cent blamed the Shia as if one sect held the unique responsibility for this disaster. .  

So what are the key players in the international community up to? It is a chequered record. There were attempts to avert disaster in Egypt but the US spent much of the time debating whether it was a coup or a military intervention.  The attempts to resolve the Syria crisis were too little and too late. The US has unsurprisingly failed time and time again to broker an Israel-Palestine deal largely because it is a player in the conflict for one side and not a neutral broker.  Secretary Kerry cannot even stop the Netanyahu coalition from announcing major building in illegal colonies (settlements) two days before talks.

The lack of serious leadership internationally has led to crisis heaped upon crisis and at best an exercise in fire fighting. All too often narrow parochial interests have thwarted proper engagement not just to resolve these crises but even contain or manage them.  I am used to Arabs saying ‘at least it cannot get worse’. Now everyone knows that not only can it get worse, but it certainly will to.  The whole Middle East order is collapsing, and watching from the sidelines should not be an option.