Scenarios for Muslim countries: Strife and division

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Baku, 7 August 2013 –

Various forecasts are made with respect to the political developments in the Muslim countries on the backdrop of the "Arab Spring”. They evoke keen interest from the aspect of intensification of the geopolitical processes. New questions arise. Apparently, issue of the development of statehood of Muslim countries gains greater urgency.

Dynamics of geopolitical processes in the Middle East: different approaches

International media are attaching growing significance to the political processes developing in the Muslim countries. Different approaches appear here. Geopolitical evaluation efforts are evident in the developments from "Tahrir” to "Taksim” with some intriguing aspects. Most experts do highlight the complex nature of the distinctively dynamic processes emerging in the Islamic world in recent years. Nevertheless, susceptibility to the interests of global geopolitical powers during the overall evaluation is a discernible trend.

Former Director for Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department in 2009-2011 Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director-general of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences Daniele Scalea, Russian analysts Yaroslav Shimov, Turkish expert Mehmet Seyfeddin Erol and other renowned individuals have released publications dedicated to this subject.

Firstly, there is an idea that spirit of the "Arab Spring” has changed. In the beginning, the West insisted that democratization in the Arab states is gaining momentum. Eventually, the Europeans, concerned with various radical factions seizing the initiative, described them as a series of revolutions with ambivalent objectives (See: Даниэле Скалеа. От Тахрир до Таксим: череда восстаний в Средиземноморском регионе // «Международная жизнь», 31 July, 2013). Thus, hesitations emerged with respect to the support rendered to the opposition forces in the Middle East while objectives of the U.S. in the region became a subject of extensive debate.

Anne-Marie Slaughter believes that in Egypt Washington’s primary goal is "to establish liberal democracy” (See: Anne-Marie Slaughter. What America wants in Egypt // Project Syndicate, 22 July, 2013). Yaroslav Shimov views the problem from the broader perspective. According to him, the core issue here is the "government’s alienation from the society”, a pertaining feature of not just the Middle East but also of the Western societies. It appears that the "Arab Spring” was the outcome of social-economic and cultural-psychological processes developing in the Muslim societies (See: Ярослав Шимов. Тахрир по-eвропейски // "Радио Свобода", 14 July, 2013).

However, the approach to the problem is not limited to the aforementioned aspects. Turkish expert Mehmet Seyfettin Erol came up with an interesting version. He believes that the events in the Middle East are the outcome of a global geopolitical game. Along those lines, Muslim countries, spearheaded by Egypt and Turkey, have initiated a political trend called "moderate Islam”. This process envisaged synthesis of Islamic values and democracy. The main objective was to rid the Islamic world of the radical religious views, and in the meantime, build a democratic society in line with the Western model (See: Mehmet Seyfettin Erol. "Ilımlı İslam Projesi”nin sonu mu? // "Milli Gazete”, 18 July, 2013).

Is radical Islam returning?

Initially a positive trend for the Middle East, the process took an undesired turn due to interference of big geopolitical powers. Radical religious groups were brought into the picture, largely in line with the U.S. and Israeli interests. Almost simultaneous appearance of "Jamaat-e-Islami” and "Pakistani Taliban” in Egypt and Syria was one of the indications. These groups cause confusion in the political environment and sow strife among the opposition.

Substance of recent events in Syria only confirms this statement. According to Turkish media, Iraqi Kurds are travelling to Syria to join forces with "Al-Qaida” affiliated "Al Nusra Front”. Reportedly, some 4000 thousand Kurdish fighters are already there (See: Namik Durukan. 4 bin Kurt genci Suriye’ye gecti // "Milliyet”, 31 July, 2013). Information from other sources also reveals that Syrian civil war is becoming fiercer than ever. Animosity between different ethnic groups is deepening the rift on the political scene. Possible declaration of Kurdish autonomy would start a new chapter.

Relatively similar scenarios are prepared for Egypt and Turkey. In his article titled "Egypt after Mursi”, Germany’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer identifies three major groups in the country - "Muslim Brotherhood”, Mubarak loyalists represented by the military, and progressive youth (See: Joschka Fischer. Egypt after Mursi // Project Syndicate, 26 July, 2013). Author predicts political struggle to unfold between those groups and underscores that circumstances may aggravate. Possibility of armed confrontations must not be dismissed. According to Fischer, capability of the youth to organize politically will be crucial.

Turkey is also mentioned in the context of analogous scenarios. Projections of some experts even question the future state model for Turkey – whether Austro-Hungarian or American (See: Станислав Тарасов, Милош Маркович. Чем станет Турция: Австро-Венгрией или США? //, 24 July, 2013). Authors do not exclude scenarios of division of Turkey into several smaller countries or a evolving into a federation. Surely, such an apology for a projection fails to reflect the reality. Nevertheless, gradually surfacing underlying message here is how the external powers would like to see the future of the Muslim countries. Scribbling by the likes of S.Tarasov made for "Regnum” are now supplemented with "prognostic theses”. We believe this is about broadening of the transformation of the idea along the above mentioned lines.

Opinions of other experts can also be visited, but a multitude of publications will not necessitate change of an attitude within expert and analyst community. Scenarios are pretty much similar to those described above. Apparently, quarters that oppose the evolution of political forces guided with Islamic values are becoming more vigorous. They are employing various means to incorporate groups with extremist views into the political environment in the Muslim states.

It is occurring on the backdrop of a campaign to besmirch political groups that were driven by the Islamic morals in successfully coming to power in some countries of the Middle East. From this aspect, we may only agree with M.Erol’s analysis and conclusions. Muslim countries may have to wage fierce struggle when safeguarding their statehood in the event of return of radical Islam to a political scene.

The other side of the issue has to do with extra exaggeration of the developments in the Muslim countries by the media of the West engulfed with economic and financial crisis. One gets an impression that certain quarters are both exerting pressure on the Islamic states and endeavor to disintegrate them. While in the meantime, they also create misperceptions in the eyes of people through information war. Politicization of the religious groups is a method employed to that end. It is thought-provoking that according to almost every projection, scenarios of dissolution of Muslim states prevail. What is the reason? Is dissolution really the only outcome for those countries? First and foremost, it is the Muslims that must look for those answers.

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