Apr. 4, 2012: The global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting notes that in none of the "Arab Spring" situations, begun around the first of February of 2011, has there been any change toward democracy.
Where political changes have occurred, Islamists have been winners. Some older political orders have been replaced by similar new ones. A possible major upcoming development is the rise of Iran and geo-sectarianism.
The ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt occurred just over 12 months ago after Tunisian autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country during substantial unrest. Neither toppling resulted in important political change. In Tunisia an interim government took over, followed by elections last October. The Islamist Ennahda won the legislative polls and proceeded to form a coalition government with the two other largest vote-getting parties.
In Egypt, Mubarak's power was handed over to a military junta that was probably ruling from behind the scenes anyway. Protests in Egypt and Tunisia continue, but in both countries Islamists appear likely to be now crafting constitutional revisions.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was the third Arab leader to fall from power--aided by NATO air, intelligence, and special forces. The rebels killed Gadhafi but continue to fight with his supporters and with each other. A caretaker government appears directionless, and it is difficult to determine who is in charge.
Events in the Arab Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain appear far more geopolitically significant. The Sunni monarchy is faced with an uprising of the country's Shia majority, who are Islamists exploitable by Iran. Next-door neighbor Saudi Arabia, a Sunni majority country, and Gulf Cooperation Council countries have successfully contained the uprising to date, but Shia unrest continues in Bahrain and in adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have also been worried about protests in Yemen against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The president survived a genuine assassination attempt but was badly wounded. He is still in charge of Yemen but is expected to step down as part of a Saudi-brokered deal that would leave his former confederates in command.
Syria and its President Bashar al Assad is a unique scenario. Here, minority Shia govern a majority Sunni. The government has brutally weathered a ten-month uprising. The opposition is weak, outside powers are reluctant to intervene, and Iran is always a potential aide. Stratfor believes the regime will not fall.
The nature of the various unrests has widely varied. Most of the protesters in all of the countries complain of unjust governing. Except for Bahrain, regional monarchies have not been hit. Egypt and Tunisia saw quick results but no real political change. Libya witnessed a regime collapse, and Yemen a negotiated regime settlement. Syria is still up in the air. No one, to date, can describe the "Arab Spring" as successful.
Editor's note: George Palmer is a longtime resident of Bronxville whose blog has become quite popular in the community. He was a WWII prisoner of war and takes a keen interest in writing about international affairs, particularly as they relate to the military.