|The Daily Star|
|FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2012 file photo, smoke rises during an explosion from an Israeli strike in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)|
While the effects of climate change took decades to become apparent, the Middle East has witnessed its own vast changes over just two years – the optimistically named Arab Spring became quickly blighted by dangerous blizzards and storms.
From the edge of the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, the region has, for the entirety of 2012, been making global headlines. Sadly, however, the only business which has flourished in much of the Middle East has been that of gravediggers.
It is hard to imagine a period of history during which another region of the world seemed to experience the same levels of abject destruction on so many levels that the Middle East is experiencing today.
Pick one country in the region and it is hard not to find examples of this destruction, if not in terms of bloodshed then in terms of corruption, creeping poverty or the abuse of human rights.
And as the situation stands it does not seem as if 2013 will represent significant opportunities to resolve this tragic state of affairs.
For obvious reasons the country that has received the most focus throughout the year has been Syria, the international envoy to which promised Sunday a new peace plan which all world powers, including key Assad-ally Russia might potentially support.
Like an audience member at a circus watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, we can’t help but feel a little confused – where has this rabbit, this magical peace plan, been hiding until now?
Throughout 2012 there have arguably been as many empty words, meaningless statements and peace plans as there have deaths of civilians. In many cases, these failed attempts at brokering peace have even led to more deaths and greater destruction.
Looking outside of Syria, the rest of the region also seems to be in freefall. In Yemen, Libya and Algeria there is the increasing militarization of extremist groups, all vying for power. Egypt and Iraq appear ever more blemished by sectarian fighting. Jordan and Lebanon are struggling with huge influxes of Syrian refugees. Lebanon is facing a dire security situation, and a weak economy. Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan continues, and Bahrain is increasingly unstable.
The rest of the Gulf may at first appear immune to the tide of uprisings, but unless serious attempts are made to allow more sections of society to participate in governance, the leaders of those countries too cannot expect to remain isolated forever.
It may be a depressing image of the region, but as the year ends, it is the reality of the day and one that must be confronted head on if change is going to be made. As it increasingly becomes defined, despite its vast oil wealth, as the sick uncle of the world, there are basically two options facing the people of the Middle East – to treat this sick entity, and fast, or to let it die.
There is a fine line between these two options, but it must be remembered that should the latter be taken, there are numerous vultures waiting in the shadows to feast on the remains of the Middle East.
If 2012 was the year that the dreams of the Arab Spring died, then let 2013 be the year in which they are rekindled, and when the people of the region realize the aspirations of independence and freedom, not just from their own oppressive governments and rulers, but from the countries, actors and systems around the world who are investing on the downfall of the Middle East and using the region, rich in so many ways, as a proxy battlefield for their own desires.