The recent popular uprising and military coup in Egypt have caused the historic and involuntary departure of the country’s 30-year dictator, Hosni Mubarak. His removal from power, and the earlier departure of Tunisia’s dictator, Ben Ali, marks the beginning of a new, uncertain period throughout the region. Arab people are purportedly demonstrating for freedom and democracy. If they are not careful, tyranny and Islamic religious repression will be what they get, with war the inevitable outcome. President Obama must, therefore, urgently devise new strategies to effectively mitigate dangers to peace and security emanating from these uprisings.
Iran’s non-Arab religious dictator, Ayatollah Khamenei, describes recent events as an “Islamic Awakening.” He would like nothing better than to expand the Shiite Islamic Revolution to more Arab countries, which, despite their many leadership shortcomings, have served as a bulwark against the Iranian Islamic model and that country’s caliph aspirations. Others, like some members of the Islamist transnational Muslim Brotherhood movement, advocate canceling peace treaties Egypt and Jordan have with Israel, creating Islamic Arab states, and installing Sharia law. Sharia, among other things, totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations.
The Arab world contains about 350 million residents (the vast majority are Sunni Muslims). It currently consists of 21 nations plus the West Bank and Gaza areas, spread mostly throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and includes oil rich Arab Gulf areas and the Suez Canal. Egypt is its most powerful and populated country with a 450,000 man active duty military and 80 million residents. The Arab League, founded and headquartered in Cairo, is a voluntary association of those governments, intended to strengthen, coordinate and promote member ties, policies, and interests.
However, in 65 years of existence, the Arab League has consistently failed to satisfactorily address festering “Arab Street” problems. Most Arabs suffer from oppression, poverty, illiteracy, genocide, and locally bred terrorism. And the persons most responsible for perpetuating these conditions are an assortment of authoritarian rulers, terror groups, and Islamic extremists. Some of the prime factors prompting Arabs to demonstrate against their governments follow:
Freedom House reported in 2010 that none of the Arab leaders provide their citizens with the full panoply of political rights and civil liberties to qualify as truly free states. And none of the members provide the necessary legal environment, political influences, and economic conditions to guarantee that news provided by national media outlets has been fully accessed, objectively reported, and accurately disseminated to qualify as having a truly free press.
The average annual income of Arab world residents is $8,000, which is about 30 percent less than the global average, and despite enormous wealth in some Arab countries like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, where the per capita income is $40,400; $51,700; and $145,300 respectively. Conversely, people in places like Comoros, Somalia and Sudan have average incomes ranging between $2 and $6 per day.
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