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DavidV

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Interpretations of the Arab Spring vary wildly. For some, it echoes the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989-91 in the hope that liberal democracy will prevail. Left-wing idiots hope that some revolutionary virus will spread and result in regimes to their liking, like those of Cuba and Venezuela. Thankfully that isn't the case. But a more nuanced, conservative view that takes into account a century of events- the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the unification of Saudi Arabia, the creation of Israel, the Cold War, the fall of monarchies in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Iran, and the emergence of violent forms of Islamic fundamentalism- and especially one from a decidedly monarchist perspective like our own, sees these things rather differently. I also state that I reject pessimism in favour of very cautious optimism. But let's get to it. I've posted on this subject before in the Asia and Africa section, but this is a much broader one that goes beyond monarchy (which is still important to this, of course) since it involves Syria, Lebanon, and geopolitics.

The possible downfall of the Assad regime in Syria, made more likely after the killing of government officials and seizure of border posts, will be no less significant from this perspective than the downfall of Gaddafi. After all, Gaddafi and Assad represent the sort of leftist revolutionary ideologies that spread through the Middle East in the 20th century, after the fall of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952-53. And all of the hated regimes that have fallen so far- Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen- are either ones that overthrew monarchies or were the heirs to those that did. Broadly-speaking, the Middle East could be divided between the Old Order (the Arab monarchies plus Lebanon) and revolutionary and post-revolutionary regimes regimes (almost all of the region's republics). Of the republics, before 2011 only Lebanon and Algeria were anything like multiparty democracies. The monarchies vary from absolute (Saudi Arabia) to multiparty democracy (Morocco). The Cold War shaped the worldview of these regimes. The former group being allied to the West, the latter group touting itself as "anti-imperialist" or whatever (thus earning the idiotic praise of leftists- even though Iran, for instance, executes leftists) although some of those regimes moved into the pro-West camp. The revolutionary and post-revolutionary regimes, for obvious reasons, are the ones that have been most vulnerable while the monarchies have been resilient and, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, even gained new influence. Never mind that the arrival of pluralism in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya opens up opportunities for monarchism that were not possible before. After all, the flying of ancien regime flags by rebels in Libya and Syria (and sporadic use by protesters in Egypt) constitutes a reactionary rejection of revolutionary ideologies.

In view of this, the possible downfall of the Assad regime will only vindicate our theses on government and geopolitics. Lebanon, due to its more complex demographic nature, has long been something of a political laboratory for the Middle East. Like Syria, Iran, Iraq and Palestine, it emerged from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire. The two monarchies (Jordan and Iraq) and two republics (Lebanon and Syria) basically inherited the social structures of the Ottoman era. Thus Lebanon is an aristocratic republics where politics are essentially sectarian and feudal. However, present-day alliances were shaped by the Civil War which, contrary to popular belief, was never a straight-out sectarian conflict but one shaped by regional geopolitics. Initially it was between a conservative alliance led by Maronite aristocrats and the secular leftist groups whose adherents were nominally Christian or Muslim, the dynamic of this changing after 1979 when the Shia population were radicalised by Iran. Alliances constantly shifted, but in the broadest sense the pro-Syrian March 8 and anti-Syrian March 14 reflect geopolitics just as the political divide in places like Ukraine and Belarus does, to an extent. The latter group brings together the traditional Maronite Catholic groups (Kataeb, NLP, Lebanese Forces, etc) and Sunni Muslims (Hariri, and the Muslim Brotherhood). This is significant in view of regional alliances. Many feel there is a growing contention by proxy between Saudi Arabia and Qatar on one hand, and between those two and Iran on the other. Defeat for Assad in Syria might represent a body blow for Iran, whose own regime is facing widespread internal opposition and internal divisions, and further strengthen the monarchies' hand. An alliance of Christian and Sunni Islamic movements in Lebanon is less than surprising in view of their shared hostility to the regimes in Damascus and Tehran.

This itself has to do with the Sunni v Shia rivalry on one hand (hardline Sunni Islamists viewing the Shia as heretics), since none of the monarchies or for that matter the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists have any great love for the IRI and it is mutual, and none of these have any affinity (or vice versa) with the violent jihadist fundamentalism represented by al-Qaeda (of which the Taliban is a mere branch). The Arab Spring, from a conservative and traditionalist point of view, does not represent a radical or revolutionary process nor does it represent a process of radical liberalisation, but rather a vindication of Old Order ideals and pricnciples typified by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other monarchies on one hand, and Lebanon's Maronite-Sunni alliance on the other.

If the revolutionary contagion spreads to Iran, and I believe it will before too long, practically anything that replaces the Islamic Republic of Iran will invariably represent an improvement not just for Iran, but also stability in the Middle East, the fight against violent Islamic extremism, and thus "reclaiming Islam" from those groups. It would be a blessing and not simply for the Middle East.
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