Sad to start a new year’s blog on the Middle East by calling the area a battle scene. Unfortunately, much of the area is locked in conflict. Even since the revolutionary “Arab Spring” exploded, chaos has swept the entire region. Syria remains a primary target with thousands being killed. Many Syrians recently poured out of their Friday services in Mosques angrily denouncing an Al-Qaida linked group that they believe derailed the revolution. The in-fighting among the opponents of Bashar Assad has greatly helped his regime endure. It still remains unclear who will attend possible peace talks this year. Rebels are proclaiming they will not attend. Western nations may end up talking to each other and accomplishing nothing.
Egypt appears to be on a more stable path. Still, deadly clashes continue to explode in the streets. Just two weeks ahead of the national referendum on an amended constitution, a confrontation between Islamist protestors and government forces left 17 dead with 62 injured in the violence. Police arrested 258 protesters and confiscated homemade bombs, firearms, and Molotov cocktails. The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood continues with the organization becoming nearly non-existent.
In my New Year’s predictions, I suggested that General Abul-Fattah el-Sisi would be elected the next president of Egypt. This week’s inside report seems to confirm that direction. The majority of the Egyptian people have tired of conflict and are ready to return to the military style leadership they have known in the past. Tourism is virtually dead and that economically hurts many, many citizens.
The next hurdle for the Egyptian public is the approval of the new constitution. General Sisi has linked his political future to this referendum in an effort to insure a significant vote for the document. Sisi noted “we work in a democracy” which has been interpreted to indicate he wants to be swept into power by the plebiscite rather simply taking the office through his military control. He appears well on his way to doing so. All reports indicate Egyptian voters do not want the creation of an Islamist state in Egypt.
Last year I released an unusual blog indicating that Turkey and Iran have been working on some sort of an alliance while Turkey radically betrayed Israel and turned their back on the Jews. A story in this week’s International edition of the New York Times indicated that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan may not have the country in his hip pocket as he thought and could be heading for trouble. While the Turks have always put a clamp on freedom of the press, Erogan appears to be losing his grip. The media refuses to be intimidated and the internet is out of his control. Government pressure on journalists and the media is not stopping stories on a corruption scandal in his government. Media that once supported Erdogan have recently turned on him.
In a desperate attempt to avoid facing the scandal, Erdogan has accused the United States and Israel for his problems. When dictators start behaving in this fashion, it has usually been a certain sign that their regime is in trouble. Possibly the idea of a Turkey-Iran alliance could be a casualty in this conflict. Just another one of those interesting possible turn of events to watch in 2014.
Keep your eyes open and stay turned. More to come.