From Egypt to Syria: re-reading the unfolding crises


[16-09-2013 01:43 PM]

by Maria Gloria Polimeno*

There is a key reading of the historical, political, social moment which the Middle East is witnessing, and it does not transcend the logic of the media debates in terms of the legitimacy of a set of issues concerning domestic & international politics. Both the Syrian civil war and the “inhaugurated” post Islamists era in Egypt have today left space to questionable new interpretations of Nationalisms with regard to the relation between State and Identity.

The war in Syria is illegal, writes Kaldor ( OpenDemocracy September 2013). An illegality provided by the violation of the International and Human Rights law. The war in Syria is, indeed, a form of aggression on a State outside the UNSC mandate dictated by the position of Russia and China, but the here claimed illegitimacy of the attack does not transcend the position of Bashar Al Assad regime before war crimes , the use of civilians and children as human shields and rapes as strategy of political repression. Under the humanitarian perspective, there are today 2.000.000 (according to UNHCR data) displaced people, many of them are not registered and, therefore, cannot receive support. The Syrian framework is miserably alarming, but it might turn into a catastrophe on the moment when America will give the green light to attack.

The media debates seem to be more concentrated on highlighting the dichotomy of President Obama’s policy and speech at Cairo University with regard to what he said in July 2012 " democracy cannot be exported ." The reductionism of mass media debates- which in any cases must be protected according to the democratic principle- has been univocally driven into the myth of the “new imperialism with human face“ that is not explicative, or even it is not the only perspective from which look at, both of the complexity of the Syrian collapse and the Middle Eastern geopolitical remapping .

The Syrian war is –indeed- and above all what has been defined by critics an “imperialism with human face” in the attempt of restoring old international and regional balances after the Arab revolts: it is a very diplomatic attempt basically aimed to remap, reestablish, reconfirm the ability by US ( and its allies) and Russia of managing their influences in the Middle East , by virtue of the with regard to the Iranian regional role but it is also a From Morsi’s ousting to Prime Minister Hollande’s decision to devolve aids to Tunisia as guarantee of a higher stability index ; as well as from the role played back by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in the region to the plan of moving an attack to Syria, all these circumstances are reasons for theorizing that Middle East transformation is actually shifting towards two intrinsic blocs: a reinterpretation of Nationalisms and the empowering of Al Qaeda networks from Sinai to Syria.

With regard to the latter aspect, after the Libyan crisis Maghreb turn into a sort of laboratory for the radical movements and further Al Qaeda linked networks, which from Algeria benefitted from the post Mu’ammar Al Qeddafi context.

The Egyptian crisis did open up the Sahara’s gates to militants which fuelled , for some aspects , the jihadi groups based in the south of Sinai -an area which after Mubarak’s step down deepens in instability and from which new jihadist groups are emerging in line with the jihad call in its purest definition hold in the Qur’an.

Decide not to intervene in Syria by leaving things the way they currently are, implies two no ways out. Decide to intervene, will give space to the high risk of engulfing further Countries in the conflict ,and it would also deepen the humanitarian catastrophic situation as well as the radicalization front represented both by the Mujahedeen and the rebels (which identity is still not known. They have been trained in Jordan at the end of 2012 but the Western strategy –supported by Europe in terms of rearming - came to fail). A decision to intervene would indirectly bring the State to fail anyway, without getting stuck in illusions of restoring the political system and of reorganizing ad interim government.

The war on Syria is illegal, and public opinion could not agree more, but here again the matter is not merely and exclusively the legitimacy of the attack itself, which is not addressed to Syrian people, needs and children, rather the possibility –even if remote- whether the attack could work. There is not a turning point for the conflict map at very present moment, therefore, the most accreditable solution is the intervene.

However, it must be in U.S consciousness to carry it out strategically rather than merely military. What does it mean? It means that by virtue of the sectarianism affecting the Country, on the basis of which the Syrian collapse can be re-read as a regional fight which put in contrast Sunni -Shiia, America should also take the risk of empowering the Sunni community ( which does represent 70% of the Arab world and MENA region) and the rebels. The strategy could weaken the Shiia front, in which the Ba’ath Party is included. By doing so, the regime would be weakened, but the resulting counter effect might enable the Mujaheddeen of benefitting from the maneuver and Iran/Hizbollah in supporting the ancient regime against the oppositions.

Empowering Al Qaeda networks ( and here I would like to say that to which creation –indirectly- in the 70’s America did contribute) however, it would mean giving rise to a “distorted” form of Islamic State not assimilating neither to the Iranian model nor to the Afghan one. Indeed, it is the theory of the paradoxical solution to the challenging diplomatic dialogue, which must start by involving three counterparts: Russia, Syria and above all Iran and which, instead, has turn into a new cold bipolarism between U.S and Russia.

Objectively, attacking Syria “wisely” could not bring the civil war to a way out.

Bashar Al Assad and the regime front do not need “sophisticated” measures and weapons for keep conducting their persistent atrocities and crimes before humanity.

The “concept” of resolution of a without end crisis -therefore -is very relative and multi-faceted , indeed.

Parallel to the diplomacy , there is a second front of analysis according to which the actions should take place by making vulnerable the governmental front by empowering the rebels first ( as previously assumed) and then by constricting the counterparts to negotiate for put an end to the civil war. But there is a limit to what assumed , here again, the Mujaheddeen are perceived as marginal force in the framework and the post-attack effect is categorically ignored .

With no doubts, the key reading of the socio-political moment which the Middle East is witnessing does transcend the logic of geopolitical power regionally legitimated through the politics of repression and violence, in the very attempt of restoring the old balances dated back to the 90’s both in Egypt and Syria .

In terms of comparative analysis, the Egyptian massacres do not differ, in structure , from the Syrian violence which keep perpetrating for two years: both Raba’a Al Adaweyia massacres and the Syrian chemical attack aimed to the repression of the political dissent by legitimating the sovereignty of a State through the brutality of massacres with the only difference that Bashar Al Assad is now asked for being punished (even though it should be judged before an International Court as happened with Milosevjic ) by contrast, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is being “sponsorized” by Israel (the Jerusalem Post September 2013 ) as an hero in Egypt who democratically staged a soft coup, dissolved- at least apparently- the most influent and charismatic political party and movement of all times : the Muslim Brotherhood, and inaugurated a new historical period based on an even more decentralized role for Islamist movements.

All this narrative, legitimate, even though indirectly, the Egyptian genocide of 1200 people in the name of a presumed democracy , about which many words should be spent.

When I was based at Cairo University in 2012 during the clashes, I found myself in a chat ( here the Arabic lecture came to an end ) with Prof. ‘Atta about the socio-political future of Egypt . Baltageyia were just spread out from society running rallies from Ain Shams University to Nasr City and 26 July Bridge, in Cairo we lived the curfew and the Sinai was particularly unstable on that period, in streets people used to talk about the democratic process Egypt was living, following the Shura elections, by putting faith and trust in Muslim Brotherhood’s historical experience as mass movement.

He talked about a caricature published on those days in a famous Egyptian newspaper, in which democracy was compared to a big cake with the Egyptian flag on it but on which Muslim Brotherhood, SCAF and Liberals where eagerly engaged in getting their piece of pie. I was skeptical in democracy- as a State building process- a discourse which did sound like the attempt of grasping the arcane in a controversial State which politics in 60 years has not protected civil rights before political criticisms.

Re-reading Raba’a and Ghouta crises, I come back on my paths agreeing with the definition of massacres as the (I would say one of many) dark side of democracy and the moral Western default before the restoration of old regional balances and political parties in power.


* Maria Gloria Polimeno is currently working on a paper concerning the new draft Constitution in Egypt with regards to gender equality and media authority. As an Orientalist and Analyst she focuses on Political Islam, Radical Islamist movements Islamic identities , Politics of Arabs Media. She is a Political Analyst for the Policy Studies center Equilibri –Desk Middle East/North Africa -based in Milan, she now collaborates with the Ce.S.I Center on International Studies Desk Middle East & ISAG Institute for the Higher Studies in Geopolitics both based in Rome. Polimeno contributed this article to Ammon News English.




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