By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
Nov 10, 2015
An Arab investor was in a coma for five years. When he woke up from the coma, they put him in a hospital room with a satellite TV. Imagine his shock as he went from one news channel to the next. The world he knew for decades had changed beyond recognition.
The first news flash was from Egypt. He was hit with stories about the Russian airplane crash in Sinai. Since he owned a hotel in Sharm El Shiekh, he was overwhelmed by the fact how the most secured place in Egypt, where President Mubarak resided, had become a war zone between the new government of Abdul Fatah El-Sisi and a new kind of terrorists.
The last he knew, terrorists were desperate individuals and made up of small groups that launch attacks here and there to make a statement. In the new world unfolding before him they were some sort of a state, with extensions in most Arab countries.
In Syria and Iraq, they had their headquarters, fighting the superpowers of the world. In Egypt, Libya and Yemen, they spread like cancer, hoping to build an empire.
On the other side, Iran is building its own empire. Strangely enough, both states are expanding side by side, in Syria and Iraq. While this is a recipe for a bloody war and a harsh competition, they seem to coexist in peace and harmony. Not a single terrorist operation has taken place in the Persian state or against its interests in the region.
This seems weird since Sunni Daesh (so-called IS) and Al-Qaeda is supposedly the antidote of Shiite Iran. Instead, their leaders and operatives live in the Farsi land and use it as a bridge to move men and logistics between their bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The strange coexistence among competitors continues with United States of America and Russia. Five years ago, the Arab investor wouldn’t have imagined the Cold War enemies setting camps side by side in an Arab country to fight a common enemy.
The Arab patient took a break from TV news to meet with visitors. His family and friends couldn’t help him understand any better. They too seemed confused as much. A Syrian friend told him the whole story of the Arab Spring. How it started in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, then Yemen, ending with Syria. An Egyptian partner gave him the full picture of what happened in Egypt — the rise and fall of democracy, the fall and rise of military.
“After years of turmoil, people’s control of the street and air, elections and all, we are back to square one!”
Libya is still looking for a way out of their own “Spring.” Meanwhile, the fight continues among the many groups and regions, supported by other countries. Unfortunately, their Arab and foreign allies are not in agreement. Instead of coordinating to resolve the differences, they prolong the disputes by insisting on competing agendas.
Yemen is a different story. It was on track to a better end. The president agreed to leave office with guarantees not to be persecuted for past crimes. He left with $60 billion, stolen during his three decades in power. The deal was for a transitional, then elected government to lead the country away from destructive chaos to integration with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and towards economic, educational and social development.
Unfortunately, the unexpected happened. The ex-president stayed on, meddled with the new government affairs and obstructed recovery. Worse, he enlisted the support of a foreign country, Iran, and his former enemies, the Houthis, to regain the office he lost.
The result was catastrophic. The vicious advances of the Houthis, overrunning the legitimate government, imprisoning its president and ministers, and threatening neighbors, led to a liberation war by a Saudi-led Arab alliance that’s still a work in progress.
“What about Lebanon?” the patient asked. “I invested in tourism there and hope my investment is safe!” It wasn’t! His Lebanese doctor broke his heart as he described a beautiful country under siege. Syrian troubles were exported to its peaceful neighbor, Iran’s agent, Hezbollah, is holding the government hostage to Farsi wishes. And the country is paralyzed — failing to elect a president, reelect a Parliament, or even clean up street garbage.
“And what about Israel? How is it affected with all these enemies fighting on its borders?” he inquired. “Strangely enough,” said a Palestinian friend, “It is benefiting from all. True, all terrorists, Iran included, are shouting and threatening death to Israel, but that is for local consumption only. Not a single bullet is shot towards the Zionist state, let alone crossing its borders. Instead, real death is directed towards each other, and the civilians in between. Israel couldn’t be happier. Its Arab neighbors are getting weaker and divided, while it gets stronger by the day.
“You know what?” said the Arab patient to his doctors and visitors, I was better off when I was in a coma!
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.
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