True, they did get rid of dictators - Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. One disappeared to a spacious palace in the Saudi deserts, and the other spends his days at the guarded wing of the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo. But the young people who filled the streets have been rejected and are being ignored by the new government.
Tunisia is considered the only success among the shaken countries, but it also the No. 1 exporter of recruits and volunteers to ISIS. And the dictators’ heavy shadow still hovers above the squares where assembly is still forbidden.
The most striking conclusion from the Arab Spring events is that the countries which expelled their dictators are now being swept away by waves of nostalgia. In Iraq, people miss Saddam Hussein, who knew how to hold the country together, before the murderous terror militias took over it. A movement called “Oh Rais, We Apologize” has been founded in Egypt as a sort of popular homage yearning for Mubarak. And in Libya there are those who believe that if Muammar Gaddafi were alive today, ISIS would not have succeeded in dictating an agenda of violence in the country.
Only few of the experts who pretend to know everything about the Arab world’s countries are willing to provide a prediction map for the coming year. If 2016 goes down in as the year that produced heartrending images, 2017 won't be much better. No matter how deep we dig into the list of the 22 Muslim countries, it’s hard to pull out any good news. Even the body we have been referring to as “the Arab world” is collapsing and falling apart. In the eyes of the onlooker, the region is holding onto a division between the “moderate” Sunni camp and the Shiite “axis of evil.” Above them, the voice of the Arab League umbrella, which is supposed to unite, sounds weak and frail – if it can even be heard.
If last year’s Man of the Year was Russian President Vladimir Putin, this year’s Man of the Year is expected to be US President-elect Donald Trump. What do we know about his world view on issues related to the situation in the Middle East? Only what he writes on Twitter. Commentators are willing to predict that Trump will focus his efforts on creating a new order in his home field. Only if he is left with no other choice, he will get the people he appoints to intervene in the neighborhood’s urgent affairs.
There are optimists in the neighborhood too. They are clinging to the fact that Trump comes from the business world and believe that he will shape his foreign policy according to a profit and loss key. It won’t be simple. The new year is dragging along the threats and conflicts of 2016. The discreet pursuit of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the world lost trace of three weeks ago, will continue. As ISIS grows weaker, the al-Qaeda terror organization and its branches are expected to rear their head.
Despite the ceasefire agreement, Syria will keep bleeding. Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are preparing to divide the Syrian loot between them behind Syrian President Bashar Assad’s back. Why should Assad care? As long as he controls Damascus and its suburbs and continues called "rais" (president), Bashar will obey Putin.
It’s interesting to see another evaluation, which all experts are fixated on: At least one leader in our region will be murdered in 2017.
Who will it be? Each expert has theirown guess, each commentator has their own scenarios. No one will take the risk of putting the name of the designated assassination victim in writing.