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Tunisia: Buazizi Fire Blazing A Year On – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

A year has gone by since the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself alight in protest to rampant unemployment.

Bouazizi barely survived for a while and the then Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali even went to see him in the hospital to forestall the spread of discontent among the Arab nation.

The flames that Bouazizi set to himself soon spread to the arid meadow of the Arab countries and now, a year on, it has engulfed a vast region spanning from the Middle East to North Africa so massively that one can track its traces in protests in London, New York and even in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Bin Ali and the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak never anticipated that the public uprising would lead to their swift downfall. Furthermore, the US, France, Britain, Israel, together with their security and intelligence services, have repeatedly been rebuked and held accountable for their incorrect analyses of the developments in the Middle East.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy does not want anyone to recall that he was preparing a plane in Paris to carry anti-riot equipment to Tunisia precisely on the same day that Bin Ali fled the country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would similarly like everyone to forget that only a couple of days before the fall of Hosni Mubarak she had described him as a US ally. She was also busy assuring everyone that Mubarak would take hold of the situation. Needless to say that US Vice President Joe Biden called Hosni Mubarak a democrat or the Israeli minister Benyamin Bin-Eliezer even saw the former Egyptian dictator as a strategic treasure.

The notable development that has occurred in the Middle East is that the Arab states are gradually adopting a more independent stance against the US compared with the Pre-Bouazizi self-immolation period.

After suffering blows in Tunisia and Egypt, the US is now struggling to infiltrate the Arab revolutions to bring the public uprisings in line with its own interests. Yemen and Syria are cases in point. In Yemen all of the US efforts are focused on a transition of power which preserves the chief pillars of the regime of the Yemeni tyrant Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Friday demonstrations are still ongoing in Sana’a and other big Yemeni cities, with protesters dismissing the US plan, due to be executed by Saudi Arabia, to grant immunity to Yemen’s dictator.

Also, the US intervention in Syria is so widespread that it now conducts repeated meetings with the leaders opposed to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Washington has even united its allies such as Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to weaken the Syrian government.

In the Persian Gulf Arab littoral states, which provide the oil for the West, the chief plan is to buy everything with money. The purchase, however, might lead to a new crisis in Kuwait or it might suspend Jordon or Morocco from the club of Arab kingdoms.

The question that, for long, remains to be answered is why these revolutions even broke out in Arab countries and why the US and its Western allies could not predict or render them ineffective?

A number of answers have been given to that question, covering a wide range from economic to sociological and political reasons. However, the reluctance of Arab leaders to change and accept reforms is considered as the main reason.

Western embassies and intelligence agencies were also subdued by interpretations which provided a positive view of the internal situation of Arab countries and the relationship between states and nations.

The most important problem with the US and European states in the Middle East is their absolute support for Israel and ignorance of that regime’s inhumane measures against the Palestinians.

Opposition of the US and most member states of the European Union to the membership of 22 percent of Palestinian territories in the UN is telltale enough to prove that they still do not want to disregard the main problem.

Though the main motivation behind Arab nations’ uprisings was to oust dictators who did not want to change, the US and Israel still refuse to accept any change and cast their same old traditional look at the most axial issue of the Middle East. This is why the recent remarks of head of Syria’s opposition, Burhan Ghalioun who said when in power he will cut the country’s relations with Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, and will start negotiations with Israel, invoked protests from Arab intelligentsia.

Hasn’t Washington noticed that its support for any development in the Middle East makes people suspicious and distances them from the US?

One of the main features of the Arab uprisings is the lack of leadership. There were no specific heads, ideology and clear-cut civil agendas.

Protest to the performance of the Egyptian interior ministry became so extensive that led to regime change in a matter of a few days. This as elections in Egypt are gradually clarifying the political division lines.

Elections of the Constitutional Assembly in Tunisia brought the country’s political and ideological groupings to the surface and showed beyond any doubt what kind of people can lead the country’s developments while Libya has a long way to go.

The situation in Bahrain is different from other Arab revolutions because there was a specific leadership and clear political agenda from the very beginning. People’s demands were also much more democratic and calculated: holding free elections and choosing a prime minister from among the parliamentary majority. These demands were met with the Bahraini regime’s as well as the Saudi and Emirati troops harsh response as the US and UK kept their eyes closed.

The fire Mohammad Buazizi kindled will engulf all Arab states and no single country will be spared. To prevent a revolution, civil war and the possibility of foreign intervention, the remaining Arab leaders have no choice, but to give in to reforms. However, the fall of dictators will commence as reforms are implemented.

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