With the fall of Muammar Qaddafi's headquarters in Bab Al-Aziziyyah in Tripoli on August 23, Libya became the third country to oust its long-serving dictator after the fall of Tunisia's Zein-al-bedin Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
The failed assassination attempt on Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh on June 3, has kept him outside the country, recovering from his injuries in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the large daily peaceful protests of tens of thousands of Yemenis in many of the country's cities and provinces have expanded, demanding the ouster of Saleh's relatives and cronies from power.
In Syria, Bashar Al-Assad has been struggling for more than six months to contain his people's daily discontent and maintain his grip on power to save his increasingly isolated and weakened regime.
However, the popular uprisings sweeping much of the Arab world this year are facing three crucial predicaments. How the different sides in each political theater deal with these critical issues will determine the future of these societies, as they undergo their genuine popular revolutions, and a change in leadership, for the first time in decades.
Prevalent problems that usually accompany major shake-ups in society such as political chaos, relative lack of security, endemic corruption, and severe day-to-day economic hardships are symptoms of much greater issues. They cannot be dealt with effectively until the major challenges facing the nation are resolved.
Although each country has its own local conditions and special circumstances, there are many common factors facing the uprisings of the Arab spring. In particular, there are three main intricate challenges engulfing the Arab revolts since their inception.
1. The revolutionaries are not in charge
Popular revolutions are rare in history because they face the daunting task of establishing a new political and socio-economic order in society based on the people's will.
The successful ones usually empower the revolutionaries to institute the new order, first by dismantling the old order and rooting out its adherents and supporters. The American, French, Soviet, Cuban, and Iranian revolutions are good examples of one system being fundamentally abandoned and cleansed of its remnants, then replaced by a new order.
But the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were prematurely aborted. Shortly after successfully overthrowing the despised dictators, the levers of power in both countries were taken over by people who were either part of the old regime or have not effectively embraced the goals of the popular revolutions.
For example, in Tunisia people affiliated with Ben Ali or his predecessor Habib Bourgiba have maintained their political clout, and in some instances even risen to the height of power. They present themselves, despite their miserable records, as saviors of the popular revolution. Meanwhile, many of the officers associated with the much-despised interior ministry and secret police have also been retained and reorganized.
In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has cast itself as the rescuer of the revolution. But as it took control of the country, many of the revolutionary and popular demands were either delayed or reluctantly instituted, usually after the people took to the streets.
As it seized power after the forced resignation of Mubarak, the military council promised a transitional period of no more than six months followed by free and fair elections. Since then, it has postponed the elections twice and has not announced a new date for the parliamentary or presidential elections.
But since March, it has tried over 12,000 civilians in summary military courts, a feat not even matched by Mubarak who, during his three-decade reign, sent one thousand people to military courts. The UN Human Rights Commissioner has strongly criticized the military trials, calling on SCAF to halt them and to retry the convicted persons in open civilian trials.
In a recent episode, thousands of Egyptian youth protested the lack of an adequate response by the SCAF to the unjustified Israeli killing of five Egyptian soldiers along the Gaza-Egypt border. They charged that by adhering to Israeli and American dictates and ignoring Egyptian public opinion, the military's response was no different than Mubarak's.
In anger, the youth protested in front of the Israeli embassy, knocked down the wall surrounding it, and stormed the building to take down the Israeli flag waving above. In the process, they seized thousands of documents that expose the degree of cooperation between both countries on such unpopular policies as maintaining the blockade on Gaza during the Mubarak regime. In response to this protest, SCAF announced the resumption of the dreaded emergency security laws, threatening a massive crackdown and long prison sentences.
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