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Opinion: The Arab Situation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian government solider aims his weapon during clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters, not pictured, in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/SANA)

Whether the US directs military strikes against specific facilities in Syria or not, whether Bashar Al-Assad turns over his chemical weapons stockpiles or not, whether the Assad regime remains in power or not. . . Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that we are beginning to see the emergence of the features of a new Middle East, with a new Middle East project well underway. Nail after nail is being hammered into the coffin of the Middle East, and the consequence of this “creative chaos” is not limited to the Mashriq, with the Maghreb to witness its share of the problems soon.

Have I been infected, like others before me, with the conspiracy theory bug, blurring my vision and making it so that I am unable to see clearly? Even when I contemplate an issue as clear as day, I find myself afflicted by paranoia and the belief that everything happening in our region is a dark plot conceived by our enemies.

More important than all this, however, is trying to understand why Arabs are on the verge of seeing their countries divided into entities reminiscent of the past, when the Arab world was comprised of sectarian states. Is this situation caused solely by foreign powers aspiring to secure a foothold in the Arab region that lies at the center of international trade routes, not to mention the region’s mineral and oil wealth?

This question has a simple and easy answer: No. Those who go to great lengths to convince themselves that the Arabs’ situation today is due to foreign intervention are simply deluding themselves.

It is easy to consider placing complete responsibility for the Arab situation today on the post-Nakba (1948 Palestinian exodus) regimes. However, this is a form of prejudice tantamount to exploiting the indignities suffered by these regimes; we must also note that it was these same indignities that led these regimes to suppress their own people. The Ba’athist regime in Syria is one such regime.

This is a valid opinion and anyone can entertain it. However, this does not deny the fact that the ultimate fates of such regimes have always remained tied to the Palestinian cause. There is no need here to give examples of leaders and regimes—some of whom are still in office—that oppressed their people in the name of Palestine.

As anyone who has enough life experience knows, speaking the truth is painful. Nothing can be said to justify the mistakes these regimes committed against their own people; neither can they be absolved from the blame for the fate of these countries, which had seemed to be heading towards a bright future in the early 1960s.

No-one denies the existence of conspiracies. In fact, there have been conspiracies since the time of Cain and Abel, and even sacred books make reference to them. Conspiracies are nothing new. However, the fact that the Arabs are increasingly warning of plots hatched against them—whether out of self-interest or general ignorance—is tragicomic.

Having spent a long day following the Syrian crisis and the tempest surrounding it, as well as the repercussions of this on the ground, and having become almost convinced that the world is on the verge of World War III, I found myself watching an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. This version saw Helen Mirren playing the role of Prospera—a female version of the traditional Shakespearean character Prospero—who wants to take revenge on Antonio, the duke of Milan, in order to secure her daughter Miranda’s future. In order to achieve this, Prospera calls a tempest by means of her magical powers.

While watching the movie I found myself wondering: Who stands in for Prospera and Antonio in the Arab world? The answer, of course, varies depending on one’s opinion and vision. But Miranda is the same for all Arab countries: Palestine.

Some prefer to live within their capabilities, while others insist on indulging in the world of fantasy. Well, life has a place for everyone. But we have to expect a price, because nothing comes for free. The price of imagination is often more painful, especially when the person wakes up to the bitter reality.

In London’s Fleet Street, you could join protests condemning the US F-4 Phantom II bombing of children in Vietnam, and then continue walking into the West End to watch The Phantom of the Opera in order to relax and give free rein to your imagination. You could do the same in Paris. You could find yourselfs engrossed in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wonderful story, without having to worry about the phantom over Vietnam, particularly when there is a Prospero or Prospera who can call a tempest and truly cause carnage. In any case, Putin has banished the specter of directing a strike against the Assad regime; Bashar Al-Assad has grabbed the lifeline that the Russian tsar has thrown to him. Everyone has gained some more time, while the killing continues and the earth can no longer accommodate all the corpses of those killed.

I do not object to those who claim that it is easy to write about this issue. I also acknowledge that I, like many others who enjoy freedom of movement, water to drink, and free air to breathe, have neither experienced the horrors of displacement nor been forced to flee my country. We have not grieved over burying members of our families, friends or neighbors. While I have not experienced any of this, I deeply feel the Syrian peoples’ anguish. I feel sorry for the children of Aleppo. I feel sorry for any bloodshed anywhere. It is only possible to say a few words which we hope will be consoling. I say this while hoping that Arabs will soon find themselves in a much better situation.