Dr. Essam Abdallah & Dr. Anis Karam
January 10, 2013
Two and a half weeks before a Tunisian street vendor ignited a popular revolt in Tunisia that would sweep across North Africa and the Levant, Middle East expert and global strategist extraordinaire Walid Phares demonstrated why his penetrating insight and peerless foresight are so highly sought after by policymakers and national security officials both at home and abroad. In a guest piece that appeared in Steven Levingston's Washington Post blog, Political Bookworm on December 2, 2010, Phares reiterated the predictions he had logged several months earlier while writing the manuscript of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, predictions that would become international front page headlines less than two weeks after the ink had dried on the first print run of his latest book.
The first prediction alluded to in the article, which is now history, was that the people of the region would revolt against ensconced dictators:
"The race in Middle Earth is on with us or without us, and the revolution is eventually coming."
The second was that the tempo of the regions popular uprisings, which had not yet acquired the current nom de guerre, would increase and presage an internecine confrontation between two opposing forces in the region, dissidents and reformers on one side, and jihadi fundamentalists on the other, with both vying for the hearts and minds of the region's youth.
"Across the region dissidents and reformers are competing for the hearts and minds of youth with the Jihadi fundamentalists...The world has seen both sides of the coin: the violence of terrorist groups and militias, and the peaceful aspirations of millions who have taken to the streets of cities and towns to demand the rights their governments deny them...In next few years, I believe, both movements will gain speed. So who will win, and what can the West do to help freedom and democracy prevail over oppression?"
The third prediction was that the nature of the US response to the uprisings would have a determinative impact on their outcome.
"The race in Middle Earth is on with us or without us, and the revolution is eventually coming. But the choice is also ours. As previous generations have stood with the Solidarity Workers of Poland and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel and as they've supported change in South Africa, they can and should repeat the great democratic exercise in the Middle East, at least with words. And in the battle of ideas, words are the beginning of freedom."
Phares is legendary for his accurate analysis of shifting geopolitical tectonic plates. What is amazing about his analysis of movements in the Middle East, however, was that he predicted the uprisings almost six full months before twenty-six year old Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated, and well before they were a blip on other analysts' oscilloscopes. As Phares wrote and the world has witnessed-from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Libya, and to Syria-"both movements, the reformers and the Jihadists, [have] gain[ed] speed" in an ideological winner-take-all contest that will determine the political topology of the Middle East for the foreseeable future. Phares even added a poetic twist to his prognostications by submitting the final manuscript of The Coming Revolution to the publisher on the date that Americans celebrate their own liberation from tyranny, the Fourth of July, 2010.
The prolific author and FOX News' Middle East and terrorism expert made a number of other predictions in the book which stands alone in forecasting revolution in the Middle East. His previous two books, The War of Ideas (2007) and The Confrontation (2008) were equally prescient, preparing readers for the revolutions that would come, and calling for added attention by US policymakers to the dissidents and reformists in Arab and Muslim countries who had been struggling against oppression for decades. During several Congressional hearings, Professor Phares also advised Congress of the urgent need for US support for secular democracy in the region to preempt and contain the jihadists.
Phares' most strategically significant prediction in the piece was the third one. It was the voice of the region's secular democratic reformers imploring the West, generally, and US in particular, to help them become viable. Sadly, the Obama Administration turned a deaf ear to the forces of secular democracy and threw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi ilk. To the sorrow of the region's genuine reformers, women, and minorities, Phares' third prediction has become US Foreign Policy. Dismayed Egyptian liberals are in shock over the administration partnership with Morsi's fundamentalist regime and the regimes of his fellow Salafists in North Africa and the Levant.
In a book launch event at Congress just weeks after his piece appeared in the Washington Post, Dr. Phares gave a lecture on the region's uprisings in which he warned that the people of the Middle East had "decided to shatter dictatorships in the region," as happened in Beirut in 2005 and Tehran in 2009. "It will happen again in Cairo and Damascus," Phares forewarned as he stood in the Capitol Rotunda. A few weeks later the storm exploded. Phares' Washington Post piece and other coterminous writings confirm that he called the Arab Spring and laid out its future, a future we are living today.
Dr. Essam Abdallah is an Egyptian liberal writer and a Professor at Ain Shams University.
Dr. Anis Karam is Chairman of the Middle East American Coalition for Freedom and Democracy and former Vice President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union.
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