The so-called Arab Spring continues to look like a Barren Winter. The extreme Muslim right-wing not only likes fighting, they apparently enjoy fighting each other. Unfortunately, banished swords that spread their religion across the Middle East and Africa have now been exchanged for bombs and AK-47 rifles. Not a pretty sight.
Not much as changed since the lid blew off the bottle except the conflicts between the jihadists continue to re-arrange the labels on the groups. Recently, al-Qaida central announced it was breaking ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Within Syria, the civil war has agonizingly dragged on because of these tensions. There have been several violent confrontations between ISIS fighters and the Al-Nustra front. While they are supposed to be battling Assad, they appear to be spending more time killing each other. As a result, Assad has gained the upper hand and is now in control of the warfare. America has backed away from intervention because arming the opponents of Assad could turn out to be worst than the dictator. The rebels who showed up to finish the rebellion are finishing off each other.
This is an old story in the Arab world. Some scholars have suggested that the nature of the Arabic language creates a propensity for aggression. Certainly, the last several decades have only added new chapters to the story of right-wing Muslim violence.
In Egypt, the government’s violent response to the Muslim Brotherhood continues. A few weeks ago, a judge sentenced the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and 682 other people to death. The military-backed government maintains its massive crackdown against all supporters of Mohammed Morsi, calling their actions “war against terrorism” which is a thinly veiled propaganda cover justifying their own violence. Hopefully, an appeal will save some of these lives. However, this is another example of using violence to justify violence.
These are sad times for the Brotherhood. The victory of Morsi has turned into a bitter defeat to the world-wide organization and its desire to restore the Caliphate. In many Arab countries, they now face bitter opposition. The movement doesn’t give up easily, but barring an unexpected reversal of political events, it is dead in Egypt.
However, a group calling itself Islamic Jihad has sprung up and is now challenging Hamas for control of Gaza. Though small, they are still doing what grabs public attention. They claim to be protecting the Palestinian people from incursions from Israel. Last month in an hour they fired more than a hundred rockets into Israel. Backed by funds from Iran, they are free of any governing group and can fly by night, creating noises making them sound bigger than they are. They are another expression of the preoccupation with violence.
While all the shooting continues, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to press the PLO and Israel to continue their negotiations. Washington will spread blame on both sides to foster continuing discussions. What the State Department never seems to recognize is that the PLO and the Arab League have one fundamental objective: to annihilate Israel. There’s that old propensity for violence again. It remains difficult to talk to the barrel of a rifle.
That cold winter wind just keeps on blowing.