‘Arab Winter’ Hits Mideast

by DR. PETER BROOKES December 20, 2012

So after two full years, how's that Arab Spring "thing" working for you? Not feeling like it's going our way? Feel free to join the ever-expanding club that embraces that overwhelmingly disappointing notion.

After the "over-promises" of the blossoming of a thousand secular, liberal, and democratic forces, the Arab Spring has basically become an Arab Winter.

Take Egypt, which held the first phase of a national referendum on a new (Islamist) constitution last Saturday. While some parts of the country haven't voted yet, it appears that the new document will be adopted.

Critics say the constitution is illiberal, potentially hurtling Egypt in the direction of a "theocratic" state, and undermining the political, religious and social rights of some groups such as minorities and women.

This, of course, comes on the heels of President Mohammed Morsi's executive power grab. His decision was only rolled back when the people took to the streets, resulting in clashes that smacked of those against his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Wouldn't it be ironic - indeed, sad - if Egypt ended up being less free under Morsi than it was under Mubarak?

Plus, the economy continues to plummet, the conditions of the Camp David Accords with Israel are possibly in question and the chances of a positive role for Egypt in supporting U.S. interests in the Middle East are anyone's guess.

What about Libya? Of course, by now we know from the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate at Ben-ghazi that Libya is struggling mightily to gain control of the security situation from the Islamist forces released by the fall of Moammar Gadhafi last summer.

Some reports say that, even though Tripoli has a good idea of who to nail for the terrorist assault that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, they're afraid to do so because of the power of the still-armed militias, some of which have ties to al-Qaeda.

Then there's Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began with the self-immolation of a despondent fruit vendor this week in 2010. Following the old government's overthrow, the new (once again) Islamist regime hasn't been able to deliver on the issues that led to the uprising.

Yemen, home of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the terror group's most active and dangerous affiliates, has gone from having a bad government to essentially having no government at all.

Of course, let's not forget Syria, where over the last 21 months more than 40,000 people have perished and more than 1 million have been displaced from their homes at the hands of the Bashar Assad regime.

The civil war's violence or refugees have spilled across the borders into Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and even Israel. At the same time, al-Qaeda fighters, other extremists, Iranian special forces and Hezbollah have rushed in to take part in the action.

Now, some may feel that it's still too early to give the Arab Spring a grade. Fair enough. But, we do have to face the reality that after two years the trend line for U.S. interests isn't very good - and may not get better any time soon.

Dr. Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He writes a weekly column for the New York Post and frequently appears on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR and BBC. He is the author of: "A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Rogue States." Mr. Brookes served in the U.S. Navy and is now a Commander in the naval reserves. He has over 1300 flight hours aboard Navy EP-3 aircraft. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; the Defense Language Institute; the Naval War College; the Johns Hopkins University; and Georgetown University.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. 

Twitter: @Brookes_Peter

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