I have written a much longer post on one of my other sites concerning this particular subject, and especially because I do think that a large number of people misinterpret the signs regarding each of these countries. It is important to recognize that there are different forms of Islam represented by Sunni, Shia and their various offshoots. I remain very concerned about the direction of Egypt for a variety of reasons. I am concerned about what might happen next in Libya, but I do not see them forming an alliance with Iran. I am having a harder time analyzing the protest movement in Tunisia, Syria and Yemen for a variety of reasons, and I remain concerned about the possible general direction in each case. At the heart of my concern is any possibility of an alliance with Iran. Only one country stands out and it is Egypt because I see the Muslim Brotherhood as the most likely to forge links with Iran.
The problem in both Egypt and Tunisia is that parts of the old regime have remained in place. It could be argued that this is also the case in Libya, especially with so many defectors, but I think essentially the ones who defected are good men at heart (with the exception of Moussa Khoussa). Libya is not the same as Egypt but is probably closer to Tunisia with regard to religious affiliation. Tunisia is the most secular of the three countries from what I have learned about Tunisia. It is a former French colony. On the other hand, Libya is a former Italian colony. When it comes to the form of Islam it seems that the big difference is that the majority in Libya is neither Sunni nor Shia. The majority follow a form of Islam known as Sufi, and an offshoot known as Sanussi (which Gadhafi tried to suppress). The form of Islam in Libya is probably closer to Sunni than it is to Shia and this is due to the influence of Idris’s grandfather as well as the influence of the Sanussi form of Islam.
In Libya there was very little in the way of political structure. The country was made up of 3 regions, Tripolitania and Cyrenacia being the two biggest regions and also rivals of each other. This is a critical point because Idris had come from the Cyrenacia (sp) region, with Benghazi being the dominant city, and it was the eastern states of Libya that had wanted to throw off the yoke of the Itanlian colonial masters, and it was the eastern states who were the allies of the French and the British during the Second World War. The western states, with Tripoli as their capital were happy with the status quo, and they had supported the Fascists during the second world war. Idris had remained an ally of the British and the French and supported the British during the Suez canal crisis. This support would give rise to Gadhafi, as a young army officer, who thought that Nasser the Marxist was one real cool dude, gaining control via a coup when Idris had left the country to get some medical attention. The rest is history.
What these three countries have in common is the degree of suppression that the people endured. We in the West do not seem to have any real concept of the level of the suppression that was endured by the peoples of each of these countries. Hosni Muburrak was probably the least repressive of the three, but there are plenty of stories of people ending up in prison for things such as being dissidents and blogging about their anti-government ideas. In each country political parties were not allowed to be formed. Probably Gadhafi was the most vocal on the subject because he did not believe in any form of democracy whilst he paid lip service to the idea. In Libya there were regional committees but the idea was to keep these tribes apart, not to allow any form of cohesion.
Some critics of the Libyan revolution have consistently pointed out that Gadhafi provided cohesion of some sort that kept the tribal rivalries under control. However, I dispute the argument on the grounds that up until this bloody and savage revolution took place the people had not means of making contact with each other. They proved that they could form an alliance for the good of Libya to overthrow a most hated dictatorship. What we do not know, however, is what might lie ahead when it comes to forming government.
The current Libyan leadership is not aligned to Iran. In fact Iran was secretly supplying Gadhafi with weapons, even though Iran also gave medical aid to Benghazi at the height of the conflict. The current leadership is also not allied to Russia or China. In fact Russia and China have been the most vocal critics of the revolution, and its savage and bloody ending. During the Gadhafi years, Libya was allied to the worst of the Marxist nations – Russia, South Africa, China, Venezuela and Cuba. In fact Libya was a Marxist nation. The people were given free education, free electricity and water, as well as free medicine. Of course they were paid very little out of the vast wealth that had flowed into Libya due to its oil.
The losers in the Libyan conflict seem to be Russia and China. They backed the wrong horse. The Russian and Chinese leadership must be fuming because of the demise of their ally. I must express a cautionary note here: until Saif Gadhafi has been captured, and the same for General Senussi, there is a real possibility that both Russia and China could do a little bit of mischief to try and cause destabilization. The Gadhafi family are not finished until they are actually wiped out. It sounds harsh to speak like that but it is a reality that we must accept in the long run.
I do think that the majority of the people in Benghazi are sincere in that they are pro-West. What we have to understand is that pro-West does not necessarily mean pro-Israel (but who knows, if they follow the example of Idris they could at least take a more neutral stance on the subject of Israel), neither does it mean that Islam will not be dominant. Libya is an Islamic country and its laws are already based upon Islam. What will be removed from those codes will be laws introduced by Gadhafi. There are some unknowns regarding matters relating to women wearing head covering. Most women in Libya already wear the hijab and a few wear the burqa and niquab. Unless the hardliners gained an upper hand in the country I cannot see attitudes changing all that much in the near future.
The challenge in both Tunisia and Libya is keeping out the hardliners. How can they keep the hardliners at bay? I think that this is a question that will be answered some time in the future.