THE BLOG
15/11/2013 06:33 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

From Egypt and Iran to Palestine and Syria!

Forget what self-appointed experts might tell you or what political bureaucrats might suggest either! Just cast a quick look for yourself at the Middle East North Africa (MENA) map today. The inescapable conclusion - the revealing truth if you will - is that things are not going well at all. In fact, things are quite messy - and perilously so too.

In Egypt, much of the country from Cairo and Alexandria to Suez and the Sinai Peninsula is being physically pulled apart by two entrenched but opposing polarities with the Muslim Brotherhood and the military flexing their respective muscles over issues of power, control, ideology and money. Many ordinary Egyptians are becoming increasingly - haplessly - fearful of the future and I find it remarkable that the soul of the January 25 Revolution is being held hostage to those two forces while the rest of the country are almost viewed as partisan or rowdy spectators.

The much-promoted negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 Group did not produce an initial deal either as many pundits had eagerly anticipated and we have now entered an unpredictable and more hesitant penumbra of blame and counter-blame. I believed that both sides made mistakes in the negotiations but both sides will commit even more serious mistakes if they do not pursue the negotiations and revert instead to more popular phases of enmity or belligerence.

In Israel and Palestine, the "discreet" negotiations have not yet produced any dividends that one could remotely call "peace" or even "resolution". This is in part due to a lack of good will, and PM Netanyahu is alas speaking from both sides of his mouth. He reassures the international community that he is a reasonable leader who will restrain the 'settlemania' of his right-wing coalition allies whilst at the same time he encourages further colonisation of Palestinian lands. And if that were not enough, we are now wondering if Yasser Arafat was indeed poisoned - and also sparring on the when or how with the Palestinian Authority almost as recalcitrant as Israel to unmask the alleged culprits.

Mind you, I do not even wish to mention Iraq where not a single day passes without more carnage, mayhem and human deaths that are together unravelling any sense of Islam as an umma and embittering further the gaping chasm that once more has become the historical Sunni-Shi'i chasm of Muslim hierarchical rivalries. And in the midst of those suicide bombs and sorry rubble, the many smaller communities - from Mandaeans and Sabeans to Christians and Yezidis - suffer more and more as they are also painstakingly being disembowelled from their own indigenous country.

Of course the biggest bogey of all still remains Syria where we now have millions of refugees both inside and outside the country. A merciless dictatorship in Damascus will stop at nothing to quell those uprisings. Conversely, radical groups galore are fighting each other with deadly hatred under the banner of their own interpretations of Islam. Kurds, Alawites, Druze, Christians, with diverse factions pertaining to different affiliations, are purportedly battling it out in their different ways for the future of this history-rich but truncated country. In the meantime, they are spawning more intolerance and Balkanising Syria into a failed state. I know this might well sound macabre or alarmist, but the 110,000 already dead are at least no longer witnessing the physical, psychological and emotional traumas of the survivors in their crippled country. Meanwhile, we in the West continue to analyse the Arab Awakening ad nauseum and brandish support, solidarity and regret as we chant almost psalm-like about the urgent need for a Geneva 2 meeting.

And by the way, did I mention Saudi Arabia where the kingdom fluctuates between relative stability and imminent meltdown? Or Libya with its tribal rivalries and east-west divide, Tunisia with the unending dramas over a national unity government and Yemen as an incubator for terrorism? Add here of course Lebanon and Jordan whose social and economic structures are slowly buckling under the deluge of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing their porous borders and one can perhaps realise why I am resigned to the fact that the human being has become the cheapest commodity of the region. Sadly, there are so many wonderful men and women in the MENA region who would soar further in the world if only they were allowed to flutter their wings and chase their dreams in freedom rather than be shackled by their own political and confessional leaders.

In the midst of such wrenching realities and meandering thoughts, let me leave my readers with an after-thought that a colleague shared with me on Twitter yesterday. Is it not telling that the appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC, comprising 15 aid agencies) raised an impressive £13 million for the victims of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines within 24 short hours whilst the same appeal for Syria raised only £23 million in 8 long months? Is this because natural disasters speak to our hearts more than man-made ones or is it perhaps because the British public - much like the outside world - have become inured to constant stream of bad news coming out of the MENA region?

I leave it to my readers to seek their own answers and to find their own seeds of hope.