What is the Arab East fighting against?
The main topic of the US president’s speech at the General Assembly of the UN was anti-American riots in the Middle East after appearance of the film Innocence of Muslims, which resulted in murder of the US ambassador Christopher Stevens. “It is not a simple attack at America. It is an attempt to ideals which the UN is based on,” Obama said. Russian experts believe that reasons for protests in the Middle East are deeper.
Veniamin Popov, Head of the Civilizations Partnership Center
Today the Middle East is experiencing a period of revolutionary transformation. We are on the brink of new dramatic events, as the complex of existing problems interlaces into one knot. I have worked in the Middle East for decades, and I think many major events will happen in the future. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were really national rebellions. They were a surprise for the West. But the West adapted quickly and tried to direct national riots against leaders and regimes which the West didn’t like. Libya and Syria are bright examples. They tried to neutralize protests in Yemen with the help of regional players. The Western capitals didn’t notice that development of political Islam is connected not only with indignation against poverty, corruption, the gap between the rich and the poor, but also with indignation against the fact that in 70 years the ruling elites didn’t manage to settle the problem which was always the major one – the problem of Palestine. The lack of a settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict leads to the population becoming indignant and standing against Westernized elites. It seems the process will continue. They are losing the population’s trust. After the Americans invaded Iraq, the correlation between Sunnis and Shias changed. In fact they had lived peacefully. But Shias came into office in Iraq, and the role of Iran increased. This Shia stripe led to a misbalance of forces. That is why Saudi Arabia and Qatar act strictly. The US tries to use confrontation between Shias and Sunnis for its own interests. For example, they try to draw attention away from the Palestinian problem. However, I think this is a miscalculation. This short-sighted policy has struck the Western countries like a boomerang and created serious problems. They aren't thinking about extending their influence today, but about keeping their embassies secure. The intention of the US, Israel and other Western countries to make Iran a center of the conflict through fanning the flames of civil war in Syria has turned out to be dangerous. If anybody in the West thinks that a strike against Iran could change the situation and promote Western interests, it is a big and dangerous mistake. In this case we will face serious consequences. The growing gap between the Islamic world and the West, growing tension will remain and be expressed in other riots. We don’t feel malicious joy about it. It is not in our interests. A clash between the West and the Islamic world is not beneficial for Russia. We are ready to do our best to normalize these relations and achieve consensus.
Shamil Sultanov, President of the strategic studies center “Russia – the Islamic World”
I will speak about recent developments and the movie. First of all, these events showed the depth of disapproval of the US and the West by the Arab East, despite the efforts which the Americans took by supporting the Arab spring, riots, struggles for freedom. Even in this posing of the question, Western superiority was seen. The Arabs began to fight for freedom and so on. These events and the following events confirmed that often analysis and monitoring of what happens in the Middle East is more precise by the Arab elites than by the American special services. The interested groups in the Arab East don’t forget the policy provided by the US at the beginning of the operation against Gaddafi. When the Libyan transaction council was formed, Americans promoted their people there, those who deserted Gaddafi’s regime and worked with the American special services. Probably from the point of view of cynical American politics it is acceptable, but from the point of view of the Arab mentality it is not very nice. You can work with your agents, but don’t present them to us as sincere fighters for freedom. The current protests against Americans are not only against American policy, Western hypocrisy, Western corruption, Western cynicism, it is also a bad sign for the West. This is the first aspect. The second moment is the tactical failure of Obama’s policy in the Arab East, despite serious efforts, millions of dollars. It is not only a problem of people who come on the streets. It is a problem of relations with elites and the failure of the American authorities to build cooperation at this level. It is no secret that disapproval of Americans is growing in the Saudi elite. People who are close to King Abdallah don’t hide their unfriendly attitude to Americans, they cannot forgive the Americans for giving Mubarak away. In this sense, one of the main problems for American diplomacy is building bridges. Intensity of anti-American protests marks the next stage of the Arab revolution when the Arab revolution goes beyond national borders for the first time. One of the components of these protests in Salafists. The Salafist movement is politicized at the supranational level. The key question of the Arab revolution is what Islamic movement will form the elite? Supranational, Arab, Islamic. On the basis of the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists? At the moment Salafists have gained points. The Arab revolution becomes the advance-guard of the revolution in the Islamic world. The way it was started and continued in Islamic countries shows that for the first time after Muhammad the Arab factor becomes the key factor in the Islamic world. The other important factor marking Islamic consolidation is that the Palestinian aspect pales into insignificance in comparison with anti-Western emotions.