INTERVIEW TO GABRIEL BACALOR,
MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS SPECIALIST
“The murderers of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya were identified as followers of Gadafi” “Netanyahu is committed to the triumph of Romney, who will support action against Iran”
A low-cost, poor-quality film, which can only be seen on Youtube, ignited the Arab world, leaving behind a trail of death, when protest against the United States was unleashed.
For some analysts, these events reflect religious intolerance in the world; for others, like Gabriel Bacalor, specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, there is nothing fortuitous in politics, especially regarding issues affecting the Arab world.
-How spontaneous are violent reactions in the Arab world to the cartoons and videos that offend the Prophet Muhammad?
Those of us living in the Middle East know that, generally speaking, these things are not random. Political intent is always present, both in the initial action and its reaction.
This is evident in the case of the assassination of Ambassador Chist Stevens in Benghazi, which required some secret information, and that the diplomat was in the Consulate. In addition, the fact that the intruders entered with weapons of war, stolen lists of Libyan partners with the U.S. Government, and several oil contracts, indicates that it was a mission which required previous planning.
-What good then are these provocations to the Muslim world?
Let’s look at the effects. The outrage generated in the U.S. electorate towards the frontal attack of U.S. targets strengthens candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign slogan that Barack Obama is a weak president.
It is known that the evangelical pastor Terry Jones, who produced the film “The Innocent Muslims”, which spurred the consulate attack, maintains relationships with the Republican Party, so it should not be ruled out that the spark that ignited this fire reflects electoral interests.
We must remember that in 1980, Republicans managed to unseat President Jimmy Carter, using the same slogan of alleged political weakness relative to another diplomatic row; at that time, the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
- How will Arab nationalist feelings be affected by the greater involvement of American troops in the region, resulting from this escalation of violence?
From an emotional point of view, the Arab world does not feel comfortable with this increased American military penetration. However, in the context of the conflict of interests caused by the Arab spring, American intervention is also functional for the rebel sectors, struggling to overthrow the monarchies that have ruled the region for thirty, forty and fifty years.
From an historical perspective, the anti-monarchist process seen in the Middle East today compares to the European revolutions of 1848, which ended the absolutism of most royalties in the old continent. Thus, U.S. interference in Arab internal affairs plays a strategic role in the military, logistic, and alimentary support of the forces facing these regimes.
It must be remembered that foreign food dependence is as significant as weapons, since Arab countries import more than 60% of the food they eat, characterized by mono-productive economies with a regressive income distribution.
-Is it is possible that the followers of deposed dictators or of those to be possibly deposed would be behind the protests of recent days?
Clearly, yes. In the case of Libya, the demonstrators that killed Ambassador Stevens were identified as followers of Muamar Gadafi, the ousted former President. In Turkey, two groups of protesters aligned with the Iranian government, burned U.S. flags and protested against Turkish involvement in the conflict in Syria.
In the case of Pakistan, whose 160 million Muslims constitute the world’s third largest Muslim population, demonstrators chanted slogans in favor of former President Pervez Musharraf, attacking a church and injuring members of the Christian community, in the city of Hyderabad.
Perhaps the most obvious indicator of the political intent of the protests, and that they favor non-democratic regimes, has been the call of the leader of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, for Muslims to “show their anger to the world.” It is well known that Hezbollah receives direct funding from Iran, and participates in the struggle to militarily support the Syrian president Bashar al Assad.
-What consequences would the fall of President Al-Assad have in Syria?
The Syrian population matrix is significantly more complex than that of Libya, Tunisia or Egypt. The rebels, who are mostly Sunni, strongly identify with Al Qaeda and are facing Shiite, Alawi and Druze minorities which are backed by Russia and Iran.
The ousting of Al-Assad’s government would have two effects that would radically modify the regional map: transfer of non-conventional, biological and chemical warheads from the present Syrian government to the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon; which would inevitably entail a large scale military operation for Israel, whose existence would be threatened. For this reason, the Israeli army performed mock combat operations in the Golan Heights this week.
The second side effect of the change of command in Syria should be expected at the local level. The social complexity involved in the expulsion of Al-Assad could extend the civil war and endanger the physical safety of local minorities. Thus, Syria could segment into two or more independent countries, as proposed by the French mandate in 1928.
-What position does Israel assume in this process?
From a military point of view, the Israeli government notes changes that occur in the region. While it raises the level of alert against possible border conflicts, its main focus continues to be the Iranian atomic program, which according to official sources, at 6, 7 or 8 months, will have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
For that reason, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed his bets on the triumph of his personal friend, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who would provide the support to the Israeli right wing government to carry out a military operation against Iran and to set back their nuclear program by two or three years, while improving the current deteriorating relationship between Jerusalem and Washington.
* Thank you to Pilar Diaz and El Universal for this interview.