The Arab spring that started in January 2011 led to multiple uprisings that brought the brutal rule of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi’s to an end. For the moment Basher al-Assad continues to cling to power. Elections have taken place in a number of countries and in all of them the Islamic parties gained significantly, whilst the secularists performed miserably. Two years since the Arab spring began the Islamic parties still face significant hurdles in developing new constitutions. In Egypt and Tunisia the Islamic groups that emerged victorious have now been in power long enough for their rule to be analysed. Debate and discussion regarding new constitutions and the role of Islam continue to dominate the Arab spring.
The Arab spring began in Tunisia in late 2010. An interim government replaced Ben Ali, and elections took place in October 2011. The country’s Islamic group Ennahda won the legislative polls, securing 90 out of 217 seats, and proceeded to form a coalition government with the secular parties that won the second and third-highest number of parliamentary seats.
2012 in Tunisia has been dominated by the writing of a new constitution for the nation. The constituent assembly dominated by Ennahda was charged with appointing a transitional government and drafting a new constitution. The constituent assembly has not published minutes of any meetings in either committee or plenary sessions. In addition, voting records and attendance have not been revealed, although observers note that only five or ten of the 20-member drafting commissions attended regularly. Absenteeism has been particularly prevalent amongst opposition parties, partly because some do not take their jobs seriously and partly because some want to see Ennahdha fail.
The constitution, drafted by six assembly committees was made public in August 2012, it was then put before another coordinating committee of the assembly that prepared it for presentation to the full assembly for debate and a vote. Ennahda made it clear after running on an Islamic ticket that it will not make the shari’ah the source of legislation in the new constitution and will maintain the secular nature of the state. Ennahda insisted that it will keep the first article of the 1956 constitution in the new basic law. The article enshrines the separation of religion and state, stating that: “Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state, its religion is Islam, its language is Arabic and it is a republic." "We are not going to use the law to impose religion," Ennahda’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi told journalists after the Islamic parties constituent committee voted to maintain the constitutional article by 52 votes to 12. The article, he added, "is the object of consensus among all sectors of society; preserving Tunisia's Arab-Muslim identity while also guaranteeing the principles of a democratic and secular state." Islam is Tunisia's official religion and while the constitution stipulates the president should be a Muslim, the state is mostly secular. Some voiced concern that Ennahda would seek to curb women's rights and other liberties in an Arab country known for its progressive laws. But Ghannouchi said the Islamist party would not "introduce ambiguous definitions into the constitution that risk dividing the people", adding that "many Tunisians do not have a clear image of sharia and erroneous practices in certain countries have aroused fear." The final draft of the constitution is still to be published.
Ennahda founded in the 1980s on the model of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, over the past two decades has become more comfortable with the ideas of secularism, to the point that it now has more in common with secular parties than an Islamic one. It has become similar to the AKP in Turkey which is Islamic in name only.
The Ummah of Tunisia voted in the Islamic party due to their Islamic sentiments. Ennahda have made it perfectly clear now they are in power, that they have no plans to implement Islam. Tunisia has been the only country that witnessed the ousting of its leader and openly declare that it will maintain the existing system, albeit with some cosmetic changes, but Islam will play virtually no role. Ennahda’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, explained with regards to establishing the Khilafah after its electoral victory: “Definitely, we are a nation state. We desire a state for Tunisian reforms, for the Tunisian State. As for the issue of the Khilafah, this is an issue that is not one of reality. The issue of today’s reality is that we are a Tunisian State that desires reform, so that it becomes a State for the Tunisian People, not against them.”
Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as the president of Egypt on Saturday 30th June 2012. This was a unique moment in the recent history of Egypt, for a number of reasons. Firstly Morsi was elected by the people, something none of his predecessors can claim. He is also the first civilian leader in the country’s recent history. His party the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been working for change for over eight decades, Mohamed Morsi took the premier seat in arguably one of the most influential and powerful countries in the region if not the Muslim world.
The MB took the reins of power in an environment, where the powers of the president were not defined and the nation’s constitution had also not been written. Both Mohamed Morsi and the MB have come face-to-face with the real-world challenges faced by any head of state.
The MB and Morsi have not presented any grand vision for the country. They have used slogans such as ‘Islam is the solution,’ which it has now been dropped. What has been notably absent is where they plan to take the people and exactly how they plan to enrich the nation. Without such a grand vision Egypt will remain a fractured nation and will be unable to move in one direction.
Whilst both Field Marshal Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Annan were replaced by the youngest officer in the SCAF leadership General Sisi, in effect an internal coup, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi has taken numerous steps showing his moderation to the West. The MB have received an overwhelming mandate for Islam, the Ummah gave them the mandate to rule by what they campaigned for not just in this election, but for nearly a century i.e. Islam
Since the election victory the MB has gone to great lengths to demonstrate its moderation to the West. In its rush to placate so called international opinion, they abandoned all pretence to Islamic politics. In doing so, they think they are being pragmatic, smart and politically savvy. When it comes to applying Islamic politics they cite constitutional barriers and the need to keep minorities onside. When it comes to applying Islamic economics, they cite the need to avoid scaring international investors and tourists. When it comes to applying the Islamic foreign policy, they cite the need to show a moderate image and to appease the West. The current reality is that the Islamic groups that languished in the torture cells of the likes of Mubarak touting ‘Islam is the solution,’ are now actually holding the Ummah back from Islamic rule in Egypt.
The army and the civilian ruling party being at loggerheads gave way to to Morsi effectively being in charge of the nation. Morsi and the MB no longer speak of ‘Islam is the solution’ Saad al-Husseini, a member of Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party executive bureau said in an interview, that tourism is very important for Egypt and stressed that drinking and selling alcohol are forbidden in Islam. However, he then added, "Yet Islamic laws also prohibit spying on private places and this applies to beaches as well...I wish 50 million tourists would travel to Egypt even if they come nude."
The constitutional crisis in late 2012 was due to different centres of powers existing in the country. Mursi attempted to change this status quo, but this led to a big backlash by the emboldened secular parties and judiciary, whilst the army stood by allowing Mursi to be weakened.
The system the army constructed that enshrined US interests and protected the state of Israel simply has a new manager. Whilst many came onto the streets demanding change, the faces have changed, but the underlying system remains firmly in place in the country.
In November 2011 the National Transitional Council (NTC) formed a government in order to become the political authority after the fall of Gaddafi. The Libyan government has spent all its transitional period, which ended in July 2012 with elections focused on acquiring nationwide political legitimacy, a prerequisite for establishing a competent security apparatus capable of dealing with threats emanating from Benghazi and elsewhere.
Mustafa Abushagur was elected prime minister in September 2012, he was a former US citizen and employee of NASA. Abushagur was only prime minister for a few weeks, having been elected on Sept 12, and was given 72 hours to name a new cabinet, and when that failed the he was dismissed in a vote of no confidence. Cabinets have to be approved by the General National Assembly (GNC), who were elected in July 2012. His ouster brought Ali Zidan to power.
At the end of 2012 the Libyan regime still counts among its challenges the most basic task of state formation: establishing internal security. The on-going formation of the Libyan National Army – has been the centrepiece of the governments push to accomplish this task, but so far, all attempts at threatening the militias into subservience have accomplished next to nothing. The inability of a legitimate central authority to impose its writ on the nation has enshrined the diffusion of power to locally elected city governments and the increasing clout of local militias.
Libya's largest regional militias are in Zentan, Misurata and Benghazi. These militias, in addition to their associated city councils, remain the biggest obstacle for central government in achieving control over a unified Libyan state. The nation’s security forces have been unable to prevent renegade militia attacks or to convince regional militia leaders to lay down their arms or join the council's security forces. For instance, the al-Awfea Brigade took over the Tripoli Airport in June 2012 and held it until the next day, when the National Transitional Council negotiated a resolution. In April 2012, the council had to secure the international airport, which Zentan's militia had overtaken, and its inner-city airport, Benita, which had fallen under the control of Souq al-Jomaa, a militia that hails from the central Tripoli suburb of the same name.
Former rebel strongholds such as Benghazi and Misurata, have continued to work from their hometowns. These regional representatives continue to maintain strong ties to both their communities and local militias, building up their own patronage networks. This also led to a rise in support for locally elected city councils in former rebel bastions, where Tripoli's influence and bureaucratic institutions hold little sway. Benghazi's city council announced in March 2012 that it would take control of the city's day-to-day administrative issues, Members of the Benghazi city council manage local infrastructure projects and security issues and settle disputes with regional rivals -- independent of central government and with the support of local militias.
Libya is now controlled by a network of armed militias, with many representing powerful tribes. The weakness of central government means they can and do operate with impunity. Several towns and cities have already forged ahead with their own political experiments.
Local militias also control important oil export infrastructure and have proved themselves capable of taking over vital infrastructure such as airports to exact demands from the National Transitional Council. With the central government failing to ensure security and falling short on promises to pay salaries to the militias, Western oil companies began to deal directly with the militias, local oil companies and regional civilian leaders to conduct day-to-day business. A number sources have confirmed that Western oil companies have hired local militias, specifically the Zentan militia, to protect southwestern oil fields from Tuaregs.
Libya after the ouster of Gaddafi remains in a state of flux, with both the NTC and its successor the GNC government having little central authority.
The revolution in Syria has now been raging for nearly two years. The massacres by the Al - Assad regime have almost become normalised. The Muslim Ummah rose up against the brutal rule of Bashar al-Assad in spite of the brutal tactics of suppression used to quell the uprising. With little in the way of weaponry and with massacres being carried out across the country the people of Syria caused a stalemate with the Syrian regime. The Ummah continues to show tremendous metal in the face of tanks, fighter jets and artillery.
The uprising in Syria began in March 2011, this is when large scale demonstrations started. It was also the beginning of the brutal crackdown by the regime. As the killings escalated some in Syria turned to international help against the regime and this opened the way for international interference. The international community has to date put forward a number of solutions to the crisis. The US shifted from publically backing Assad as a ‘potential reformer’ to publicly denouncing the regime — but all the time doing nothing more than issuing statements.
As images beamed around the world of the massacres taking place an Arab league observer mission was dispatched to negotiate with all the parties in bringing an end to the conflict. This mission was always destined to fail and it is questionable how serious the international community even was about such a mission. The Ummah fought back against Al –Assad’s terror, this resilience led the international community to begin constructing a post-Al-Assad Syria. The international community turned to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Local Coordination Committee’s (LCC’s) in the hope of nurturing a faction that could take power after Al - Assad.
The US used Russia and China’s apparent support of the Syrian regime as one of the reasons the Syrian conflict was spreading out of control. The US presented the European nations and itself on one side calling for al-Assad to go and Russia and China on the other side trying to maintain Al-Assad.
Then the Kofi Annan led ceasefire was announced, which was another attempt to deal with the uprising. This plan was as useless as Arab league observer mission. When this strategy was unravelling the US began calling for the Yemen model to be applied on Syria, where the rebels come to the negotiating table. The international community began promoting a "political transition" similar to the steps Ali Abdallah Saleh had taken in Yemen. This strategy fell apart on July 18 when a bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus eliminated several of the regime's top security bosses and possible candidates to take over. The Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani, Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar, National Security Council chief Hisham Biktyar and Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat (Al-Assad’s brother-in-law) are all reported to have perished, whilst Al-Assad’s brother Maher al Assad - the Republican Guard and Fourth Division Commander is reported to have lost both his legs.
The Assad regime failed to quell the uprisings in Homs, Hama, Idlib and the stand-off reached the districts in Damascus – the seat of the regime. This worried the US and led it to constantly highlight the prospects of civil war and the countries chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands. This led to a flurry of statements in June by US officials such as the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of staff, US Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State and the President himself increasing the calls for military intervention.
The situation currently in the country is that the al-Assad regime which controlled every strata of society has failed to end the uprising, employing all sorts of brutal tactics to quell the demand for change by the masses. The situation has been complicated by international powers who all have a stake in the outcome of the country and who have been manoeuvring to influence the outcome. Successive strategies by the West have failed to stem the call for change by the people of Syria. What is currently taking place is the battle for the country post Al-Assad between the Sunni Muslims of Syria and the US.
In 2012 similar to the other uprisings across the region the Ummah in Syria lost their fear of the regime and all its notorious tools and decided to take on the regime. The Ummah in Syria has been at war for over a year now, with experience and aid from defecting Syrian troops, their fighting acumen has improved. The sharp increase in the number of destroyed Syrian army tanks and armoured fighting vehicles attests to the capability of the Ummah. The influx of fighters from other countries as has been reported has also bolstered the Ummah. This influx includes experienced Syrian and Iraqi fighters who fought in the Iraq war against US forces. Their experience in improvised explosive devices (IED’s) would appear to have had an enormous effect on the Ummah’s capabilities to inflict casualties and damage on the Syrian military.
This is why the Syrian military has avoided costly armoured attacks on rebel-held urban areas where armour is more vulnerable. The regime is solely relying on air-power and shelling from afar using tanks, artillery and attack helicopter support. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) does not need to match the security forces’ numbers or firepower because the rebels can force the regime to fight everywhere at once, taking advantage of their superior mobility and flexibility to mount effective raids and ambushes where and when it suits them.
The Ummah in Syria after decades of oppression have stood tall even after a brutal crackdown by the Al – Assad regime. For the moment the struggle for Syria stands at various powers manoeuvring in order to gain influence in this strategic country. The situation in the country is still fluid and could potentially go in any direction. The Ummah’s challenge in Syria is to not be lured with promises of weapons by foreign powers and compromise with their uprising.
In summary the following observations can be made on the second anniversary of the Arab spring:
- In Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, voters in their millions have clearly expressed their opposition to secular liberal values and their strong desire for Islamic government. Yet the same parties that went to great lengths to demonstrate their Islamic credentials to the masses in their election campaigns, are now going to greater lengths to demonstrate their moderation to the West. The Islamic groups, whether Ennahda in Tunisia or the Muslim Brotherhood’s freedom and Justice party (FJP) in Egypt have made one strategic mistake after the other. The Islamic parties have won elections that were flawed from the outset. The elections were for parliaments which are a relic of everything that was wrong in the Muslim world. These Islamic parties rather than change and replace such a system, have entered the corrupt system and replaced Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak with themselves in maintaining the corrupt, secular systems.
- Whilst many of the Islamic groups who are now in power, sacrificed a lot in the past and were on the receiving end of much brutality by the dictator rulers, their political calculations are rooted in myths. They believe that an Islamic system can only be implemented gradually. Whilst the groups who have reached power lacked much in policy development they argue that Islamic solutions aren’t ready to be to deal with problems such as poverty, unemployment and development. They also falsely believe implementing Islam will scare minorities, scare investors and scare the international community.
- There are a number of countries that have not witnessed uprisings such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and most of the Gulf States. There are however specific reasons for this. The relationship between the rulers and the people in these countries are different when compared to the relationships between the rulers and the people in Libya, Syria and Egypt. In Libya, Syria and Egypt the rulers ruled with an iron fist, established what were police states and social cohesion was maintained thought a large secret service. These factors are absent in the Gulf nations, Saudi and Jordan.
- In Jordan protests have been restricted to calls for the removal of the Prime Minister. King Abdullah has dismissed various governments on account of the street protests. Since Jordan's independence in 1946, the palace has appointed more than 60 prime ministers, including three since the Arab unrest broke out in 2011. King Abdullah dissolved the government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai and then put Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, in charge of forming a new Cabinet and instituting reforms. Protests still continued, which led to King Abdullah to sack Bakhit and his cabinet, naming Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to head the new government and institute new reforms. King Abdullah has for the moment successfully contained the protests by constantly dissolving the government and this has placated the people.
- Saudi Arabia has been able to present the protests in its territories as a Shi’ah uprising and this has caused the bulk of the population to support the clamp down in cities such as Qatif, al-Awamiyah, and Hofuf. In order to contain the uprising the monarchy announced a series of benefits for citizens amounting to $10.7 billion. These included funding to offset high inflation and to aid young unemployed people and Saudi citizens studying abroad, as well the writing off of some loans. As part of the Saudi scheme, state employees saw a pay increase of 15%, and cash was made available for housing loans. No political reforms were announced as part of the package. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia also issued a fatwa opposing petitions and demonstrations, the fatwa included a “severe threat against internal dissent.”
- The Gulf States did not see many protests apart from Bahrain and Oman. Such city states placated the uprisings through making some reforms, changing cabinets and through economic hand-outs. Although many of them have monarchies they do not rule with an iron fist. Whilst Bahrain continues to clamp down on its Shi’ah majority population Oman was the only other Gulf nation to see significant protests. The Sultan continued with his reform campaign by dissolving some ministries, setting up some new ones, granting student and unemployed benefits, dismissing scores of ministers, and reshuffling his cabinet three times. In addition, nearly 50,000 jobs were created in the public sector, including 10,000 new jobs in the Royal Oman Police. The government’s efforts have largely placated protesters, and Oman has not seen significant demonstrations since May 2011, when increasingly violent protests in Salalah were subdued.
- An uprising in Pakistan has been notably absent. Pakistan has not been a brutal dictatorship as has been the case with Libya, Syria and Egypt. Since Musharraf’s era Pakistan has moved in such a direction, as can be seen with the disappearance of many people apparently linked to terrorism, this is however a relatively recent phenomena. The rule in Libya, Egypt and Syria was in the hands of brutal dictators and the only way to change this was through an uprising.
In Pakistan unlike Libya, Egypt and Syria the political system is not controlled by a single clan, there exist different centres of power, with two families who have historically dominated the political system. Feudal land owners, industrialists, rich families and the army are all centres of power who maintain Pakistan’s political architecture. Alongside this opportunists and various factions have entered the political process for their personal interests. The political process in Pakistan has the involvement of a much wider segment of the population compared to Libya, Egypt and Syria and this has acted as its lifeline.
For the moment in Pakistan the call for change is either making the political system more democratic or getting some Islamic laws passed., This is why there has not been an uprising in the country even though the economy continues to teeter on the brink and electricity black outs have become the norm.
- In our assessment of the Arab spring at the end of 2011 we concluded:
“Islam has played a central role in the uprisings. Groups such as Ennahdah in Tunisia and the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt have gained significantly in elections as their Islamic credentials resonate with the people.”
However aside from Syrian uprising the others that took place have all ground to a halt as those who espoused Islam are in reality maintaining the pre-revolutionary systems. They are attempting to keep the West happy with their moderation and the people that voted them in happy by making cosmetic changes, whilst all the while keeping in place the secular systems and protecting Western interests.
In 2013 and beyond the following challenges will most likely need to be dealt with:
- It should now be clear that Western intervention has not taken into account the demands of the region. This is why Western contact is with very specific individuals and groups who either espouse Western ideals or can be changed to espouse such ideals. The challenge for the Muslims of the region is to ensure its revolutions are not hijacked by a foreign agenda. The intervention by the West in Egypt and Libya was the key to Western infiltration of the revolutions. Through this it expects to have a say in the region.
- The biggest debate is the system of governance for the region. All calls for Islam are being hallowed out by a global media that would like to see Western values permeate the region. This pressure has led to many Islamic groups who suffered heavily by the regions dictators to compromise their Islamic polices in order to appease the West. Building a case for political Islam is a challenge the region will need to take up.
- Many disparate groups from different leanings came together to oust the rulers of the region. This unity ended when the rulers were overthrown. Now differences have emerged on the post-regime set up and this has been used by the West to divide the people and allowed the West to cultivate surrogates who will get their support. The challenge for the people of the region is to develop a new system for the region which unifies the people and keeps Western interference out.
- Attempts by the US to interfere in the Syrian uprising continue. The US is trying to lure "vetted" activists through offering training and support so they can galvanize greater influence within the rebels inside Syria and take a leadership role. It was reported in the last week of August 2012 that the US and Britain have setup a training camp close to the Turkish border to train Syrian activists from inside Syria. The telegraph reported that: "An underground network of Syrian opposition activists is receiving training and supplies of vital equipment from a combined American and British effort to forge an effective alternative to the Damascus regime. Dozens of dissidents have been ferried out of Syria to be vetted for foreign backing." Recruits face "two days of vetting designed to ensure that the programme does not fall into the trap of promoting sectarian agendas or the rise of al-Qaeda-style fundamentalists." The last remaining option for the US is in infiltrating and influencing the FSA to obey a chain of command that is loyal and controlled by the US. This would steer the rebels away from their goal of bringing down the regime and to sit down at the negotiation table. The challenge of the Ummah is to keep its uprising pure, free form Western control. The outcome in Syria will impact the whole region.
This article is a shortened version of an extract from the forth coming annual Khilafah.com publication – Strategic estimate 2013.
 Tunisia's Islamists rule out sharia in constitution, France 24, March 2012, retrieved 23 September 2012, http://www.france24.com/en/20120328-tunisia-islamists-rule-out-sharia-constitution-ennahda
 Interview with Rachid Ghannouchi, France 24, 13 November 2011, retrieved 11 November 2012, http://alhittin.com/2011/11/13/rashid-al-ghannushi-rejects-the-idea-of-khilafah-wants-reforms/
 Egypt’s Islamist parties allay public fears but say no presidency for Copts, Al Arabiya, January 2012, retrieved 23 September 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/01/03/186120.html
 Libyan violence threatens oil recovery, UPI.com, 26 September 2012, retrieved 11 November 2012, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2012/09/26/Libyan-violence-threatens-oil-recovery/UPI-73801348692042/
 A fatwa from the Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia warning against mass demonstrations, Asharq al awsat News, October 2011, retrieved 1 October 2012, http://islamopediaonline.org/fatwa/fatwa-council-senior-scholars-kingdom-saudi-arabia-warning-against-mass-demonstrations
Coming Soon – Strategic Estimate 2013
Strategic Estimate is Khilafah.com's annual assessment of the global balance of power. We concluded in our previous assessment the US remained the world's superpower, however it had been over-stretched in both the wars it was engaged in after the events of 9/11, this led to a number of nations taking a more confident and in some cases a much more confrontational approach to the US in the different regions of the world.
In 2012 China confirmed what many American policy makers had long believed, that the nation has its sights set on the South China Sea. The year has seen an aggressive China utilising its military to expand its influence in its own region after decades of diplomacy and commerce.
The Arab spring in 2012 saw a number of developments with the initial euphoria giving way to victories for Islamic groups and then the reality of actually running a country. The brutal crackdown by the al-Assad regime in Syria gave way to a stalemate by the opposition. Strategic Estimate 2013 will analysis where the Arab spring stands on its second anniversary as the Muslim world attempts to re-shape its destiny.
The global economy in 2012 saw many of the world's premier economies go into a double dip recession. The world's largest economies have struggled with stimulating their national economies though policies of austerity and stimulus packages. The political fall-out from the global economic crisis dominated 2012 as a number of governments' domination of their national politics gave way to gains for more unorthodox political parties.
The global energy markets have been revolutionised by the developments in Shale oil and gas. Previous estimates on peak oil, global oil reserves and the dwindling new oil wells, have all now been revised as the development in technology has led to new more difficult reserves become assessable. Strategic estimate analysis what effect this will have on the global balance of power.
Iran once again made international headlines as Israel continued with its rhetoric for military strikes. Like previous years 2012 ended with no strikes but with the US-Israeli positions becoming more distanced from each other.
2012 once again ended with an Israeli military strikes against Palestine, Strategic estimate 2013 revisits the Palestinian issue and analysis where the various players currently stand and what the future holds.
Strategic estimate 2013 profiles the prospects of India as an upcoming nation and analyses it's challenges.
The geopolitics of energy is also assessed and some of the emerging trends will be analysed as well as there effects on the global balance of power.
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