Sunday, October 23, 2011 might very well be remembered as a major turning point in the march for a reformed Islamic Caliphate. Here's why:
1) We learned that Islamists would be the likely winners in the Tunisian elections, in the first free vote of the so-called Arab Spring. Given that Tunisia is widely viewed as the most moderate Arab state, the election result--combined with the reemergence of formerly exiled Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi as a major power player--sends a distressing signal about the possibility for "democracy" in Tunisia.
Of course, the mob attack on a synagogue in Tunis a few months back should have been the first sign of trouble.
2) We learned that the newly "liberated" Libya, trumpeted as a foreign policy triumph by the Obama administration, will enshrine strict Islamic law as the basis for governance, including such gems as a ban on interest and the legalization of polygamy.
Ah, those freedom lovin' Libyan rebels. I wrote last Thursday that the most likely beneficiaries of a post-Gaddafi LIbya would be Al Qaeda/related Salafi groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran.The interim government's full-throated embrace of sharia doesn't exactly make me alter my thinking.
3) Barry Rubin, one of the world's top analysts on the Middle East and downright prophetic from the start when it came to predicting the Islamist trajectory of the Arab Spring, revealed that the Obama administration is actively embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist elements inside Syria.
Rubin actually wrote about this on Oct. 22 but hey, since I didn't read it until the Oct. 23, I'm counting it. By the way, I believe Bashar al-Assad will hang on to power longer than most expect in Syria. In fact, I simply cannot see any scenario under which Iran--increasingly bold and ambitious--allows its most important client to fall by the wayside.
There's actually another, more important reason that I believe Assad is likely to hang on a while longer. It has to do with Isaiah 17. More on that in another blog later this week.
4) Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and the mullahs in Tehran are licking their chops following President Obama's announcement that all U.S. troops will be pulled out of Iraq by year's end. Ahmadenijad said he expects "a change will occur" in the Iran/Iraq relationship and that the two nations have "special relations."
Expect Iran to seek to dominate its heavily Shia neighbor as it continues its strong push to lead a renewed Caliphate.
5) This one isn't Arab Spring related, but is definitely significant in the grander scheme of things. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, our man in Kabul, declared that in the event of a war between Pakistan and the United States, Afghanistan would back its neighbor.
"If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan," Karzai said in an interview with Pakistani television station GEO. "If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you." This despite continued tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan over a host of issues. At the end of the day, it's still Islam uber alles.
In fact, "Islam uber alles" could be quite a catchy slogan for the Arab Spring--and a fitting one. Yet the Obama administration is apparently going to use the Arab Spring--soon to be remembered as the "Islamist Winter"--in the 2012 campaign as a sign of its foreign policy prowess.
Good luck, fellas. By the way, we didn't even mention Egypt, where the Brotherhood might soon score its biggest victory yet. Ain't Middle East democracy grand?