Domino effect under way in Arab states, says British author


London : With the tremendous surge of revolutionary action in Egypt, the domino effect is well underway in the Arab world, according to British-born journalist and author Robin Yassin Kassab.

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“The Arab countries are closely linked by culture and common experience, so certainly the great Tunisian example is inspiring similar action across the Arab region,” Kassab said.

He drew parallels with the domino effect similar to the collapse of Communist governments around Eastern Europe in 1989 and believed that the current uprising in Egypt was the key.

“Arabs never really achieved independence, for a variety of reasons. Corrupt elites in authoritarian Arab states have plundered the people’s wealth, obeyed the dictates of hostile superpowers against the people’s will, and entirely failed to build reasonable education or social welfare institutions,” Kassab said.

“Civil society has been stifled. Now it seems that the Arab people are entering the power equation, and true independence may be at hand,” he said in an interview with IRNA.

The 41-year old author, who is of Syrian extraction, grew up in England and Scotland, except for six months in Beirut, He has since worked in London, France, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

He said that it was the Arab regimes themselves, rather than the autocrats on top, who have failed to deliver democracy for far too long. “They are archaisms which fail to express the will of an increasingly assertive and sophisticated population.”

With the focus now on the uprising in Egypt, he said that what is happening in by far the largest Arab state of more than 80 million was “absolutely” crucial.

“Egypt used to be the cultural, political and military leader of the Arab world. Then it was emasculated by defeat in 1967, the police state apparatus, and its submission to America. Even its economic planning was done according to American design,” Kassab said.

“If this revolution succeeds it will give a major boost to the cause of freedom in nearby states. It will reverse the cultural stagnation of the Arabs. More regimes will fall in the region, and those that won’t fall will have to allow for much greater popular participation.”

With regard to the fallout, Kassab said that the effect on Palestine will be “enormous” with the Israeli embassy having already helicoptered its staff out of Cairo.

“Egypt is in no position to declare war on Israel, but it will be in a position to shut the embassy, end political and security contacts, end the siege of Gaza, and stop propping up the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

The author of such works as The Road From Damascus added that much better relations between Egypt and Syria and Iran can be expected and would enhance the collective strength of all countries in the region.

“That’s just the start. If Egypt achieves democracy, so much will become possible throughout the region and beyond. That’s why the next days are so crucial.”

Asked why the west had not acted earlier in bringing about reforms in the Arab states, Kassab said that in 2006 the US pressured the Palestinian Authority into holding democratic elections but that “a party promoting resistance to Israeli occupation was voted in.”

“The West does not want meaningful reforms in its regional client states for a very simple reason. If Arab governments represented Arab people, there would be no American military bases in the Middle East, there would be no cooperation with Israel, and Arab resources would be exploited for the benefit of the Arab people, including the Palestinians.”

Kassan explained that by ‘the West’ he meant the ruling interests there. “Most Western people, if they are told what is happening, support the democratic aspirations of the Arabs.”

“This is why Obama must talk of ‘reform’ and ‘dialogue’ even as he continues to back the Egyptian regime and to supply it with teargas and ammunition,” he said.

The British author was cautious in predicting whether the uprisings would lead to a complete change, saying that it was still not clear what was coming next in Tunisia, but added that the people there “still have revolutionary momentum.”

“In Egypt, everything depends on what happens in the next few days, but my feeling is that so many taboos have been broken, so many sacrifices have been made, that the people will not give up,” he said.

“The jinn (genie) is out of the bottle. I think the only way to put it back in would be to massacre thousands – and that would lead to a splintering of the Egyptian state. People would fight back.”