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The time difference a third time - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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On the 9th of February 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Egypt…the time difference” before the fall of the Mubarak regime. In summary, I argued that the Egyptian regime had been three days late, with all its decisions and responses coming after the masses had raised the ceiling of demands. Indeed I have written about the “time difference” in the Arab world over and over again, so why return to this topic again?

To this day our states are suffering from a timing issue. Nothing is completed on schedule, and steps are always taken after it’s too late. Furthermore, these steps have no real value because the ceiling of demands has increased, whether in revolutionary cases or uprisings, or when matters worsen in otherwise normal conditions, such as crises in the economy, security or otherwise. If today we reviewed the situation of countries plagued by the political earthquake, we would find that they all strangely suffer a timing problem, demonstrating their lack of vision and inability.

The simplest example is what the “The Seattle Times” recently published about conversations between the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to the newspaper, Rice met with Mubarak in 2005 before she delivered a speech about the need for Egypt to lead democratic change in the Arab world. At the time she told Mubarak that if he did not undertake change then the Egyptians would take to the streets, and Mubarak responded to Rice saying: “Give whatever speech you want because you don’t know the Arab people. They need a tough hand, a strong hand and the only thing standing between the extremist and my people is me”.

Of course what happened in 2011 was that the Egyptians took to the streets and toppled Mubarak, who did not feel the day the earth was shaking under his feet, despite all the indications, even a few days before he was overthrown! This is what happened in Tunisia with Ben Ali, and today the same thing is being repeated in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

The Yemeni President speaks today about respect for the constitution and legitimacy, after spending nearly three decades ruling above the constitution and legitimacy, and placing his country’s military and security institutions in the hands of his sons. In Libya, Gaddafi is now negotiating with the French after destroying Libya, and after insulting France and its President. After living in hiding in a basement, he is now back negotiating, having missed all previous opportunities, after all the murder and destruction, and only now his regime is on the verge of collapse.

The same thing is taking place in Syria. I previously launched an attack on the Syrian regime’s media on the 24th of March, when I wrote an article entitled “My advice for Friday: Do not kill!” Today, after all this time, and after the deaths of more than 1,400 Syrians, and thousands more detained, we find the Damascus regime launching a national dialogue led by Vice President Farouk al-Shara. This aims to set the agenda for another dialogue, developing the framework of ideas for a new constitution, which will be studied by another committee, which will create further committees, and so on. Meanwhile, the Syrian masses continue to chant “leave”!

The Arab timing crisis is alarming, and is a prominent feature of the regimes that are experiencing the political earthquake in our region, and likewise the Arab countries that are facing mere difficulties and demands. No one seems to recognize the usefulness of what they learned at a small age, namely: “do not postpone today’s work until tomorrow!”

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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