Changing Dynamics of Middle East and Emerging ScenarioIPSweb
The events in the Middle East are still unfolding their various dynamics, so it is a bit early to predict what the future of the uprisings and fall of regimes would be. However, years of social, political and economic injustices sparked the unrest and the external forces were quick to get into mess, particularly in case of Libya.
Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) organized a roundtable on “Changing Dynamics of Middle East and Emerging Scenario” on Wednesday, April 06, 2011, in collaboration with Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The panel of discussants included Lt. Gen (R) Talat Masood, Former Secretary of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, Government of Pakistan; Tanvir Ahmad Khan, Chairman Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad; Ambassador (r) Tariq Fatemi; Bakare Najamuddin from Department of International Relations, Preston University, Islamabad; and Prof. Khurshid Ahmad, Chairman IPS. Dr. Rifaat Hussain, Chairman, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, moderated the session.
The roundtable generated rich discourse with diverse opinion on the subject. The speakers, however, agreed that the events in the Middle East were still unfolding their various dynamics and it was a bit early to predict what the future of the uprisings and fall of regimes would be. It was also noted that years of social, political and economic injustices sparked the unrest and the external forces were quick to get into mess, particularly in case of Libya.
At this point, varied opinions came on board: some would say that Western powers were trying to use force as a means to show other regional countries their readiness to take matters in their hands. Some other believed that military intervention was against international law and sovereignty of states. There was also an opinion that status quo in the region was at stake and there was a danger of the emergence of new anti-western forces in the region and to counter such a development, the military option, which should be the last resort in any other case, was used at the first instance in case of Libya. Another opinion on this issue was that the military operation was the only option left when all the other powers were watching a dictator violating the human rights of his civilians. Following is a glimpse of the points raised by the participants in the roundtable.
Opening the session Khalid Rahman, Director General IPS, apprised the audience with the backdrop of the roundtable saying that while Middle East and the events therein were still unfolding their various dynamics, it was important to discuss and analyze the uprisings in the Middle East, the actors and factors working in the background, the leadership and the systems likely to emerge, the role of regional and international actors in this mobilization, and the future course of the regional dynamics.
Tanvir Ahmad Khan, in his statement, said that huge upsurge against the established regimes in North Africa marked the beginning of a new phase. He said that upsurge was not entirely unexpected as discontent had been there and the scenario was changing rapidly. There was marked increase in the concern in West on the growing protests in Egypt, he noted, adding that Tunisia to Bahrain marked the rebirth of military interest and return of interventionism as a tool of change.
Mr. Khan apprehended that the course chosen by Western powers in Libya was the commencement of a new world order in which military intervention would be used as a weapon of change by the mighty nations. Discussing the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1373 passed against Libya, he maintained that the Resolution was so vague in its contents that it could be invoked by anyone against any nation and “Pakistan should not consider itself an exception in view of ambitions of neo-colonial powers.”
Amb. Tariq Fatemi said that the UNSC Resolution was not only damaging the concept of state sovereignty, but also endangering the security of smaller countries. Referring to the involvement of external forces, he said that UK, USA and France wasted no time to secure their interests in the region, namely ensuring the steady supply of oil to Europe and security of Israel etc. These nations wanted to deny Al-Qaeda any space in Libya, so they resorted to military campaign as a response to the developments there, he maintained, explaining further the rightist tendency of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his hatred against Islam, he dreaded that the fall of Libya in the military presence of these nations might lead to Balkanization of the country.
Gen. Talat Masood said that the movement starting from Tunisia would spread to all other Arab countries, maintaining that ‘No-Fly-Zone’ is not a precursor to invasion. “The Western powers will not afford it even if they want it,” he noted, mentioning further that democratization in the Arab World and genuine democracy in Palestine would lead to empowering the Palestinians to assert their rights. Saying that the real threat to Israel is political, Gen. Talat hoped that Obama would take concrete and just measures if he was re-elected for the second term.
Prof. Khurshid Ahmad said that in view of undemocratic and extraordinarily long dictatorial regimes in the region, such change was neither unexpected nor abrupt. “Lava in the oppressed masses was in fact waiting for an opportunity to erupt and it exploded with tremendous force,” he added. He opined that the UN resolution on Libya was so vague that it could be exploited easily by Western powers. “The so called war on terror has made the world more insecure,” he maintained. Expressing his belief that Middle East would experience a change in times to come, Prof. Ahamd added that democracy and Islamization were two sides of the same coin and secularism could not be introduced in Muslim world.
Bakare Najamdeen said that that sovereignty should not be upheld in the case of Gadaffi’s brutality against his own people that “daunts every reasonable mind.”
Taking part in the discussion, Excellency Mashallah Shakeri, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan, said that Western conspiracies to destabilize Iran have been failed. He noted that Iran had been surviving despite plots by hegemonic powers. “I don’t underestimate the impact of Islamic Revolution on the recent uprisings but Iran has no role in creating these waves,” he clarified. Mr. Shakeri said Iran had been a role model for other countries but this was not something that just happened. He apprehended that the views of Muslim scholars were going towards pessimism.
Palestinian Ambassador, Excellency Hazem Hussain Abu Shanab said that globalization since 1990 became a form of intervention of bigger powers to divide smaller powers of the regions. He said that after Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US would go to Middle East, adding that No-Fly Zone for the American leadership meant for destroying infrastructure in Libya and rather than protecting its people.
Amb. Javed Hafeez said that the situation in the region was complex and not easy to understand. “The current uprising was not a monolithic movement: if it is a movement for democracy, then why it did not erupt in Saudi Arabia and morocco,” he questioned. Referring to the developments in Egypt, he argued that change could come peacefully from within and external intervention was not necessary to bring any change. Explaining that “all these Arab regimes came into power in 1960s and 70s with certain promises,” he said that the current popular uprising was “the result of unfulfilled promises and dreams of the people”
Barrister Sadia Abbasi commenting over the situation in Libya said that Libyan invasion was against country’s sovereignty. She said that societies should be allowed to solve their problems on their own.
Ambassador Tayyeb Siddiqui said that the external aggression in Libya and crisis in Sudan were primarily motivated by the oil factor and Syria, Iran, and Pakistan could be the next target.
Gen. Assad Durrani said that merely moaning and groaning about the selective obligations, double standards and hijacking of the agendas by the west would leave us nowhere.
Dr Rifaat, who moderated the roundtable, said that though Middle East events were a complex phenomenon, it however was clear that this region was not immune to change.