Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: A New Coalition and Old Illusions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What happened in Syria a few days ago—the horrible massacre that took place in eastern Ghouta, Damascus—was a catastrophe. That massacre, where the Assad government used chemical weapons, killed nearly 1,400 people, the majority women and children.

The Syrian crisis is marking time internationally, as there have been no changes of note in international policies. Regionally, however, Syria’s real friends, such as Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, began to take more effective measures on the ground and also politically.

In view of the current events in the region, a new regional bloc has started to appear on the horizon: All the Gulf states save one, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are trying to bring in a stronger and stable Egypt, after it was freed from a group that sought to hijack it from its strategic Arab position, and throw it into the hands of a regional axis which is an enemy of Arabs. We can metaphorically say that the road to Damascus has begun in Cairo.

In the midst of such major events, the president of the most powerful country in the world seems perplexed and bewildered. He draws red lines, and when they are crossed, he changes their color to green, and draws new red lines.

US president Barack Obama allowed Russia to rise as a new international power. Later, and following an individual incident (the Snowden affair), Obama disapproved of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s use of Cold War terms.

In fact, the latter had long ago embarked on this trend by adopting international policies to make his country a key player in the international arena at the expense of the US. Obama should have been angry at that, rather than at the expressions Putin used.

Obama had committed a strategic mistake that will show its impact in the future. He has, whether consciously or not, allowed the use of chemical weapons in a major conflict, something which could restart the production of chemical weapons again, in a larger scale, and to be used in major regional and international conflicts.

The volume of rapid international and regional change necessitates a type of thinking that is unique, cool, precise and deliberate. Moments of major change are not a place for verbal or rhetorical speculation. Rather, they call for a great deal of meditation and careful considerations of interests.

The Saudi and Emirati stance towards Egypt is a historic one. It is based on the real strategic interests of their states and people, as well as the interests of Egypt, the strongest strategic ally, with all the weight it carries, at both regional and international levels.

International alliances are always open to change, one way or another, whereby relations are rearranged, interests are reassessed and policies formed. There are many reasons that cause such changes, including the discovery of the weakness of allies among the superpowers, or when their interests become different, when their view of the situation becomes suspect, the weakness in communication, or when the regional powers that are indifferent to the interests of their allies are being backed, or when strategic mistakes are being committed repetitively. This latter example is manifested by the stance towards Iraq in 2003, the stance towards Iran, and in assessing the gravity of the situation in Syria and Egypt, apart from other examples.

Sometimes, there is a rise of the economic power of some regional states who feel that the protection of their interest is not correlated with the interest of major allies, unless it serves the interests of those regional states. Thus, regional states tend to search for the best ways and means to protect and develop their new strength and apply them politically by taking up decisive stances towards pressing regional issues.

Furthermore, these states are establishing themselves as key players in the region and the world, and are rejecting the strategies of their allies that may attempt to create new power centers that could seek to rise at the expense of these states. In the meantime, numerous illusions grow to massive size at the time of crises, and the demand on legends and conspiracy theories becomes greater. In fact, mixed and chaotic scenes prompt one to be carried away by such scenes and even submit to them whereby these mixed scenes move from reality to the mind, and so one becomes totally dispersed. One level of the spread of illusions is the level of perception. In fact, perceiving what is happening usually depends on the ability to collect and sort information, avoid their contradiction and scrutinize them to separate the correct ones from the incorrect ones.

Then comes the description level. Some are distressed and become taken in by illusions: Was what happened in Egypt in January 2011 really a revolution, or was it just a popular uprising? Have the people fulfilled their dreams by themselves or by the assistance of the army that sided with them? Without a doubt, it was not a revolution, but a major uprising that achieved a success with the assistance of the army that sided with the masses. The same rhetoric applies to what happened in Libya. Events began there when an armed struggle erupted between two armed wings within the regime, one of which emerged victorious thanks to the military intervention of NATO.

Then comes the analytic level. This level is based on correct perception and accurate description in order to come up with a comprehensive view that brings politics together with history, culture together with the society, and the civilized course with the reality.

Finally, we come to the result level. This is the level in which awareness expresses itself, each according to its location; a politician would express himself by his decision and strategy, whereas an intellectual would use his vision, and a writer would use his expression, and an economist would do so through his domain, and so on.

The shortcoming that could exist in any of these levels could result in a graver shortcoming in the succeeding stage. As a result, some are confused, but each in his own way; some confuse the logic of the state with values of human rights, whereas others are driven by their own wishes into giving inaccurate descriptions, whilst others are overcome by their emotions and sentiments in analyzing political stances, although this must be governed only by interests, as can be evidenced by many examples.

In the selection of their own illusions, people could take several routes and follow disparate courses. Whilst some incline to recall old legends such as dream or heresies and narrate tales of the Day of Judgment, others incline to use up-to-date legends such as conspiracy theories. For example, some view what is happening in Egypt as an international Masonic conspiracy aimed at hitting Egypt to the advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood. Others write that all members of the new government are Masons, according to a recent article by one of those writers.

Finally, to set one example of all these illusions, it is enough to review the stances of numerous politicians from around the world and from the Arab region and view the opinions of numerous intellectuals and writers about what used to be termed “the Arab Spring,” and discuss with them the name and idea of the words “Arab Spring,” and you would discover how some elites could be deceived by illusions.