Mar 082011

Arab world will need to get used to the fact – a familiar pattern in history – that it is impossible to carry out a revolution in a vacuum. The problem is, so many different agendas have started to coalesce once again in this strategic part of the world that even if pro-democratic impulses once had a space to develop on their own, soon they might not.

Libyan test for resurgent al-Qaeda

In a fundamental shift that began last year when an ideologue questioned a reliance on terror attacks and the severing of ties with international Islamic movements, al-Qaeda is positioning itself to support political Islamic parties in Libya’s rebel-held areas. The move is hoped to not only kick-start al-Qaeda’s revised vision, but also to prevent the armed opposition from falling into the hands of pro-Western agitators.

The perfect (desert) storm

The Arab revolt, North African yearnings for democracy, Western despair over oil prices, and the new American doctrine for regime alteration are kicking up a perfect storm, deploying devastating gusts of hypocritical winds such as the US request for Saudi Arabia to arm rebels, while turning a blind eye to the House of Saud’s inconvenient truth. History yet again repeats itself as farce.

Big power plays emerging

International actors have metaphorically descended on the Arab uprisings, seeking to exploit instability that could result in major shifts in the status quo. The competition between BRIC countries and their allies, on the one hand, and the United States and the European powers on the other, has been particularly apparent in the diplomatic arena over Libya. However, it could soon find a new theater in the emerging Persian Gulf confrontation.

While the world’s attention is still on Libya because of the fighting over there, the slow-simmering situation in the Persian Gulf is far more important … There is the obvious repercussion for the world’s energy supply – some 40% of total global energy output via sea comes through the Persian Gulf – but it’s not just about oil.

Each one of those states, from Oman all the way up to Kuwait, houses major American military installations. They are very vital for US military operations in this part of the world, particularly at a time when the United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from Iraq…. In addition to just the general nature of American military operations in the region, unrest in the Persian Gulf complicates the US-Iranian dynamic. The United States is already withdrawing from Iraq, which allows Iran to flex its muscles, and if, in addition, we see unrest destabilizing the Persian Gulf states, that gives Iran further room to maneuver and project power, not just on its side of Persian Gulf but also across into the Arabian Peninsula.

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