Libya, Bahrain and shifting sands

Muammar Gaddafi talking about a holy war is like someone selling halal pork. The Libyan leader is desperate. In a single interview he shifts from “our war is against al-Qaida” to “if they (the West) behave with us as they did in Iraq, then Libya will leave the international alliance against terrorism. We will then ally ourselves with al-Qaida and declare a holy war”.

It isn’t a threat. The al-Qaeda will probably pamper him for a while, but will kick his butt soon. Also, there is no uniform international alliance against terrorism, not unless you snort something that makes you hallucinate. However, his comments should make it clear that there was too much of a rush to declare the Arab revolt a revolution. The initial silence of the West was a flashing neon light. It was like watching dogs fight inside the kennel. The guns are out with greater force. I had written last month:

This would give and has given the military more powers than it ever had, and it is pertinent to note that some of these ousted leaders have had army training and experience themselves. Therefore, the people’s protest has given way to a sneaky military coup or waiting-in-the-wings mullahs. Who will benefit the most from these ‘stopgap’ regimes? Any die-hard conspiracy theorist will tell you that it is the West, mainly the US.

Gaddafi knows what he is doing even if he may turn out to be the pawn in the game.

Now Bahrain, where the poverty paradigm of rebellion does not quite work, has the majority Shias fighting the Sunni establishment. The reason is entirely different. Yet, it is being clubbed together with the rest. The country’s defence forces have taken over with the tacit help of friendly allies like Saudi Arabia (so much for one Arab world) and the US.

Will Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Yemen come to the rescue? No. They won’t and they can’t. They are still fighting their battles after the war. Commentators who went to town about “overthrowing despots in the Great Revolt” are now writing about “the fissures”.

It is even beyond fissures. Again, from my piece:

What will any of these movements achieve besides dethroning the atrophied who even denied people any coherent contemporary history, except as an ode to themselves?

I do not wallow in any cynicism I expressed but as outsiders we need to understand that even when Humpty Dumpty has a great fall, it will remain a smelly eggshell.


  1. Gaddafi; like Saddam started out with Arab nationalism and against western colonialism. They both nationalized oil industry (like Mosaddegh in Iran); which automatically put them in Soviet camp.

    Right now, literal line in the sand really is Bahrain which is a proxy for Saudi Shia. If that is crossed than lot of the US relationships built over decades are in jeopardy. There are already some strains; with people needing democracy and all (even after 37 b $ in shut-up money).

    There are many reasons to be cynical but still overthrow of their moribund regimes has to be a good thing.


  2. Hitesh:

    Gaddafi's Arab nationalism was different from Saddam's, although these two and Iran have out up a fight against the US.

    I assume it was a typo, but Saudi is Sunni, not Shia.

    My question is: what after overthrowing and how much will the oil invite well-wishers?

    As the saying in Hindi goes, teil dekho aur teil ki dhaar dekho (See the oil and also see how it flows).

  3. I was referring to the Shia minorities in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia; which are oil rich and therefore has kept the kingdom always bit nervous about Iranian mischief.

    From what I have read, monarchy in Bahrain is relatively liberal compared to others in the region so protests are largely about Shia majority wanting their rightful place in the power structure. If they get their way, it will almost surely provoke Shia in Saudi Arabia or rather it already has.

  4. here is an excellent article on the topic:


  5. couple more and then I stop, promise :)



  6. Thanks Hitesh, for the clarification. The Saudi monarchy and system are too well-entrenched and also has western sanction. Regarding Bahrain, the revolt seems to be riding the wave. I have my doubt about the Shia majority in either looking to Iran as a role model. The Kurds aren't exactly happy with Iran, if we use them as an example.

  7. Iran is no role model for anyone but desperate people being shot at by their own govt will try to muster support wherever they can.

    Regarding Saudi being entrenched and sanctioned, I agree. But, so was Hosni Mubarak. Until he wasn't...


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