This is just a quick posting to give you some of my thoughts of the events of the past couple of weeks with respect to the shifting influences in the Arab world.
This series of events seemed to kick off in Tunisia a few days before the President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country on 14 January. Using old west lingo, he was driven out of town on a rail. Unrest began to fester due to the corruption and repression of the regime. There did not seem to be a core leadership group behind the unrest, just a collective dislike of the regime and all of the ministers in it. As of today the only survivor from the old guard seems to be Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi who is trying to hold the government together. He has promised that he will step down as soon as elections take place in a few months. The current Tunisian caretaker government has issued an international arrest warrant for Ben Ali; apparently he and his family took off with millions in gold bullion.
Now let’s jump forward to last week in Egypt. A seemingly leaderless group of protestors has been hitting the streets in all of the large cities. The same theme as that in Tunisia is ringing out in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. They do not like the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak, not to mention his succession plan of turning the government over to his son Gamal. For over a week there have been conflicting reports that Gamal has fled the country.
One player in Egypt that rises to the top of all analysts’ concern is the Muslim Brotherhood. Outwardly, they do not have strong leadership and are not terribly organized in this latest round of protests against the Mubarak government. For me, one surprising player coming on the scene is Mohamed ElBaradei the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. While not particularly popular with any group, he seems to be rising to the top of potential successors to Mubarak, at least until things settle down. He doesn’t seem to be siding up with the Muslim Brotherhood and that could be his downfall.
More and more of Egypt’s allies are letting it be known that they are not as supportive as once was thought. Many, such as Germany and the United States are urging the government to implement democratic reforms.
Additionally, Jordan’s King Abdullah II is coming under increased pressure by the rest of the Arab world to get his country’s demonstrations under control this has been going on for over two weeks. While the king has promised reforms, they likely won’t mollify his unhappy citizens who want to elect their officials as opposed to having them appointed. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for more demonstrations. Unlike many of the Arab countries, Jordan is not an oil rich country and must depend on foreign investment.
I haven’t discussed Lebanon which has had its own upheaval in the past several weeks. I think that it will be safe to predict that we can watch for a Hezbollah regime in the near future. This will be the same as turning the government over to Iran, one of the foremost terrorist sponsors in the world.
I discuss all of these recent events to point out a couple of similarities. All of these events bring to mind the stories of the two revolutions in Russia in 1917. The first one was the White Russian Revolution. This was accomplished by democracy seeking Russians, but the revolution was taken over by the Bolsheviks. At what point do we see the Muslim Brotherhood come out and step up to the plate to coalesce the groups currently fomenting rebellion in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan? Will the radical Muslims become the modern Bolsheviks?
Of course we all know what the Bolsheviks did; they tried to spread their “religion” across the world by coercion as well as revolution. This brings me up to my other point.
With the radical Muslims being emboldened, how much more attractive will our porous borders become to them? With terrorist sponsorship of Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan added to Iran, how much greater vigilance will we here in the United States have to maintain in order to keep out the jihadists intent on disrupting our way of life?
We already have one of the most porous borders in the Americas. Our Secretary of Homeland Security has declared that our borders are more secure than they have ever been. Well, folks, I don’t know what she has been smoking, but I’ll bet it’s illegal. For many years we have been worried about illegal Mexicans and other Latin Americans coming across our borders; what about the increasing flow of illegal jihadists? At what point will the Secretary of Homeland Security and the OWH take our security seriously? Just two weeks ago, the Secretary announced that the virtual fence is going to be canceled due to lack of effectiveness. When will she start executing her job for which I assume she had to take the same oath of office that all of us military officers had to take. This oath requires us to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I don’t know about her oath, but mine did not come with an expiration date.
As always, I welcome your comments and discussion.