Expect load of clichés from goodness factory

Remember the days when we thought Egypt's path to democracy was a done deal? Western-trained Mohamed Mursi had invited the people to come and meet him in Hosni Mubarak's former presidential palace. How happy the Middle East optimists were by mid-2012.

Next door, Libya produced a victory for nice, pro-Western secularist Mahmoud Jibril, promising freedom, stability, a new home for the West in one of the Arab world's most fecund oil producers. It was a place where even US diplomats could wander around virtually unprotected.

Tunisia may have a radical party running its government, but it was a "moderate" administration in other words, we thought it would do what we wanted. While autocracy elsewhere, with the purse-lipped support of Messrs Obama and Cameron, quietly suppressed a few uprising which threatened to remind us all that democracy was not really welcome among the wealthiest Middle East states. Democracy was for the poor.

So, too, in Syria. By the spring of last year, the Western commentators were writing off Bashar Al Assad. He must "step down", "step aside". His regime had only weeks to go, perhaps only days. This was the "tipping point".

Syria's rebels were always "closing in" on Homs, then Damascus, then Aleppo, then Damascus again. The West supported the rebels. Money  and guns aplenty came all over, moral support from Obama, Clinton, the pathetic Hague, Hollande, the whole factory of goodness until, inevitably, it turned out that the rebels contained rather  a lot of Salafists, executioners, sectarian killers and, in one case, a teenage head-chopper who behaved rather like the ruthless regime they were fighting.

The factory had to put some of its machinery into reverse. The US still supported the good, secular rebels but now regarded the horrible Salafist rebels as a "terrorist organisation". And poor old Lebanon, needless to say, was about to explode into civil war for the second time in less than 40 years, this time because Syria's violence was "spilling over" into its neighbour's territory.

Wasn't Lebanon's sectarian make up the same as Syria's? Wasn't the Lebanese Hezbollah an ally of Assad? Weren't the Sunnis of Lebanon supporting the Syrian rebels? All true. But the Lebanese did not oblige the overpaid "think-tank" bores and journos and "experts" because they were too intelligent and well-educated to return to the midden of 1975-1990.

Israel threatened Lebanon because the Hezbollah had thousands of missiles and threatened Gaza because the Palestinians had thousands of missiles. And many were the Israeli journalists along with their American clones – who prepared their readers for these two wars against "terror".

In the event, Lebanon remained unbombed while a highly unsatisfactory conflict (from Israel's point of view) broke  out between Israel and Hamas which ended when Mursi the West's avuncular ally persuaded the Palestinians to abide by a ceasefire, which Netanyahu then mournfully accepted. 

So at year's end, friendly, cuddly Mohamed Mursi was playing Mubarak and concentrating all old dictatorial powers available to him while a very dodgy constitution is being  ram-rodded on to the secular population of the land, whose Muslim and Christian people he had all along promised to serve.

In Libya, of course, the US turned out to have more enemies than it thought; the ambassador was murdered by and the jury must remain out on this despite the obfuscations of Clinton an Al Qaeda-type militia.

Indeed, Al Qaeda itself politically bankrupt by the time of Osama bin Laden's murder  by a US military assassination squad in 2011 was virtually written off by the White House in advance of the Obama re-election. Mali replaced Afghanistan, just as Libya replaced Yemen and just as Syria replaced Iraq.

A word of advice, therefore, for Middle East potentates, dictators, Western poseurs, television presenters and journos. Do not use the following words or expressions in 2013: moderate, democracy, step down, step aside, tipping point, falling into the wrong hands, closing in, spilling over, options on the table or terror, terror, terror, terror.

Too much to hope for? You bet. We'll even get another load of clichés from the goodness factory to replace those that have already served their purpose.

The Independent


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