There's the Qatar Arab Spring, and there's the Imaginary Arab Spring
Qatar’s vision for the future of Arabs is winning so far. A realistic alternative is yet to emerge.
As Qatar prepares to host the next Arab Summit, I was thinking of how far this tiny kingdom has come in spreading its DNA on the series of historic movements that some still refer to as the “Arab Spring”. It then occurred to me that up to now, Qatar is the only game in town, and the alternatives are yet to prove themselves.
Qatar’s version of Spring
The vision of Qatar’s strategists for a successful Arab Spring country is one that is stable, prosperous and has good (and slightly subservient) strategic relations with Qatar. Qatar made a bet to back the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria and all over the Arab world not because the Qatari regime has an ideological affinity with the brotherhood, but because their strategic calculations rest on the premise that the brotherhood is truly popular among the populations of those countries and can provide a stable and sustainable basis for government.
After making that bet, Qatar –as it does– went all in. From the Aljazeera bully pulpit, to the arming and strong-arming of the players on the ground, Qatar used every tool at its disposal. The latest chapter in Qatar’s hardball game was the imposition of the close Ghassan Hitto as a leader for the Syrian opposition to the disgruntlement of leaders Like Muaz el Khatib and Michel Kilo.
There are many things wrong (and immoral) with Qatar’s vision. Signs of backlash from Tunisia to Syria are beginning to show, but an alternative vision has not proven itself yet.
Many observers –who are overly represented on social media– see this Brotherhood phenomenon as a temporary phase on the road to a “real” democracy, where the law rules supreme, institutions abound, freedom thrives and minorities are as influential as the rest of the population. Mahmood Salem, an Egypt watcher wrote:
Egypt’s Islamists have waited 80 years to get into power, and now that they have, the countdown to their now-inevitable fall has begun. One day we will all live in a secular Egypt, and it will all be thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood.
This could very well happen, but that vision hasn’t proven itself yet. None of the countries in question have shown signs yet that a true liberal democracy is about to take hold. We may never see the day where Free Arabs are ruling the show.
Some of you reading this don’t like the horse that Qatar has backed. It is crippled, one-eyed and smells kinda funny. But so far it’s the only one standing in this race.