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  • What Does the Arab Spring Foretell?
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 7:45 PM on Mar 31, 2011

    The string of home-grown rebellions now dubbed the “Arab Spring” is the most significant event in the Middle East since the 1973 War, says Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Israel’s spy chief for five years.

    “Don’t panic” but stay “paranoid,” he says. Yadlin is in Washington while  transitioning to civilian life following his stint as Jerusalem’s top intelligence advisor and an earlier career as a fighter pilot whose bombed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor.

    These “leaderless revolutions [are] only the beginning” of the Middle East’s transition, he says. Egypt’s democratic movement -- which appears like Iran’s initial revolution to be led by good people with good ideas -- could change direction by the time of Egypt’s national elections in six months. A counter-revolution could again install new, non-secular strongmen. Although the Muslim Brotherhood is saying it won’t push a candidate for the presidency, such declarations could become the victims of time and increasingly ambitious goals.

    Yadlin made a few informed predictions. Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine will not be involved in this first wave of democratic revolutions because “they have been there” already and have suffered from the resulting political, ethnic and civil strife. The well-established kingdoms – Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain – will survive with the royal families still in place. The chaos during 2004-5 in Iraq, will likely be the model for the revolutions in Yemen and Libya.

    Peace between Egypt and Israel will continue, but with a different formula that will be negotiated with the new government. Yadlin is optimistic about Egypt’s revolution compared to Iran’s. Egyptians have lost their fear, there is a strong relationship with the U.S., the revolution was supported by the military and no one can blame external causes.

    Syria’s president won’t be able to recreate the massacres of protestors in 1992 because of the speed that information moves through the Internet. “It will not happen again,” he said.

    “This is not the time [to build] a larger military,” Yadlin says. But it would be a good time to watch key parts of the region more closely for details of the new governments and to “develop long-term capabilities” in case events later take a dangerous turn. In the meantime, Israel should adopt a “passive strategy,” not interfere with their neighbors and be more careful in any response to provocation.

    The “soft war” fought on the Internet and Facebook against Israel needs to be fought in that same non-kinetic medium and not with bombs, he says. Iran, he said, is ready for a U.S. bombardment of words.

    Tags: ar99, Israel, MiddleEast

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