The Arab world is being hit from every side

The Arab world has been dealt so many sporadic blows that we can no longer get a grip on where it all started

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
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The Arab world has been dealt so many sporadic blows that we can no longer get a grip on where it all started and when this trauma will end. We can also never know how we are viewed by others no matter where we stand in the political spectrum.

Even adhering to the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” philosophy has become too complicated since allies and adversaries are yesterday’s friends and today’s foes. All eyes are on a part of the world that even Machiavellian thought or political analysis can no longer fathom.

Indeed, the crises plaguing this part of the world have become the routine work of international agencies and the United Nations at large. Yet no sooner do these organizations fix one problem before tens of other problems surface.

In such an ever-changing, bizarre mess, it has become almost impossible to forecast what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the distant future. This is why it is difficult to take an affirmative political stance on any issue.

Regimes lose legitimacy the minute they cling to power. Legitimacy is only earned through tangible achievement

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

Ironically, supporting the Al-Nusra Front has become synonymous with supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet if you are with the Free Syrian Army, you would never know which one of these groups, or if even the Syrian regime, is killing your men.

Does this mean, then, that supporting Sunnis in Iraq makes you an accomplice of ISIS, the very group that sees the Iraqi regime as an enemy?

Similarly, can we support the rights of the Kurdish people while supporting the very same government that rejects this independence? Or would we be branded Sunni supporters? The answer to this riddle is irrelevant, since chances are that by the time you make up your mind, the political dynamics will have already shifted, rendering these equations futile.

Iran, meanwhile, has stopped supporting the outgoing sectarian leader Nouri al-Maliki. Where, then, does Iran now stand?

In short, the questions and answers to these riddles are so entangled that some miraculous software needs to be created to figure out this maze. Yet such complexities are not confined to this part of the Arab world. Move a little westwards, and you will find the so-called “Arab Spring” in a constant state of doom and gloom.


In Libya, for example, you can never know who is on whose side or how parliament or government is run. Indeed, no sooner do you hear of a new president than he has run for dear life or was beaten up in his office or kidnapped from his house.

Taking one side will inevitably land you in trouble with the other.

The search for legitimate government has become near impossible as nations fall victim to militias, factions and governments fighting for power, forgetting their people altogether in the process.

The entire Arab map is facing one of its darkest ages, where every possible solution seems to contradict the next. Some have blamed these crises on the U.S.’s lack of interest in the region, thanks to Obama’s ever-changing stances, and have demanded that the mega power directly intervene to douse the flames.

Ironically, it is these very same people who complain that U.S. intervention is the root of all evil and repeatedly ask America to stop acting like the world’s policeman. In short, amnesia has hit an Arab nation where everyone applauds whatever comes their way.

What is all the more disturbing is that Arab officials repeat the same old phrase at conferences, thinking the masses will not notice that these “exceptional and critical times” have actually become the rule and not the exception.

The need to improve disintegrating development indices, nevertheless, remains dire amid increasing unemployment, poverty and corruption.

Countries that were defeated in World War II are leaders in today’s global economy. Germany and Japan, once war torn, have fully recovered and excelled after realizing that development and economic advancement, not military might, are the key to success. Germany has since led Europe’s economy and Japan is now an economic rival to the U.S.

By contrast, dire developmental failure in the Arab world paved the way for sectarian and territorial disputes. One fact, however, remains clear. Regimes lose legitimacy the minute they cling to power. Legitimacy is only earned through tangible achievement.

Arab citizens continue to live the daily miseries of securing income for their families and their future amid these failures. The saddest part of this reality, perhaps, is that Arabs still aspire to emigrate in a bid to get their hands on basic needs that their very own states have failed to provide.

In short, changing government priorities and shifting toward a development-based agenda remain our main challenges.

Good governance is the key to a sustainable agenda, a strong economy and a powerful educational system. Indeed, only this can immunize us against the blows that have incapacitated us for so long.

This article was first published in Arab News on September 3, 2014.


Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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