Days of wonders, week of surprises

Days of wonders, week of surprises

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

PRINCE Khaled Al-Faisal, in a famous poem, says: “We live in a time of wonders. What is left to be revealed? Every time we think they were over, came something new.”

I am reminded of his words a lot these days. In the past, mega events came in line — one by one. Like in a speech ceremony, you hear one speech at a time — no words crowding or overlapping. You have enough time to listen, absorb, analyze, discuss and make sense of what you heard. You also have enough space for shock, excitement, joy or sorrow.

Since the War of Partition in Palestine (1948), we had a lot of shocking events, but plenty of time to take them in. In 1952, we had the Egyptian military coup against King Farouk rule. Then comes the Suez crisis of 1956.  Later, Egypt and Syria united in 1958, then separated on bad terms in 1962.
The Yemeni Civil War and Egyptian involvement came soon after and raged on for a decade (1962-1968). In 1967, we had the six-days Arab-Israeli war. In one stroke, we lost Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and Sinai. There was a lot of digesting to do, but we had six years to, till the 1973 War, Camp David Peace Accords (1978) and President Sadat’s assassination at the hands of his own soldiers (1981).

The 1979 Iran revolution, which brought us a fanatic religious regime, was soon followed by the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988). Two years later, Iraq invaded Kuwait (1990), leading to a fully-charged year of tension that ended with the Liberation of Kuwait in (1991). Ten years later, we went through the trauma of 9/11, which led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Major events followed, but in similarly reasonable pace: Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in Beirut in 2005, Israel burned Lebanon in 2006 and Hezbollah terrorized the country in 2008.
In 2010, it seems like the Arabs had decided to live the “fast and furious” digital age. Suddenly, they lost their patience with the status quo, and decided to change their governments all at once. It started with Tunisia, then, weeks later, Egypt was on fire. The peoples in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain didn’t wait for us to follow up and digest what was happening. They all came up and out, and the train of change gathered pace — from slow to bullet speed. They probably were not aware that they were participating in a huge, complex play, directed by regional and super powers to change our world order — destructing and reconstructing it.

Today we no longer wait for months, or even weeks, to witness a shocking event. Daily, some times hourly, changes and crises happen all around us. It is like we are part of a crazy circus or in a maddening roller coaster, witnessing the unthinkable, unimaginable, unbelievable casually happenings, like it was a daily routine.

Who could have thought that an Arab regime would use chemical and weapons of mass destruction against its own people? Or that a few thousand terrorists would rule third of Iraq and Syria, against the will and muscles of 68 armies, including those of the superpowers of the world? How would you explain the ongoing civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen? How can you fathom the fall of a great Arab nation like Iraq under the weight of the same country that fought it for eight years but failed to defeat it?
Explain to me, if you may, how dare Russia send its wings of death and jump like a bear in a China shop in a region of so much importance to the United States, Europe and NATO!

As for Iran, the scheme is clear, the methodology is consistent and the motives are understandable — declared four decades ago.

However, some of the surprises were pleasant, like a cool, refreshing breeze in a blazing summer. In one week, Qatar secured release of its kidnapped citizens in Iraq, including Saudis, and its former Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani visited his tribe in the heart of Saudi Arabia. The GCC ministers of interior, defense and foreign affairs met to arrange the affairs of the Gulf security, militarily and politically. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, after a summit meeting, announced consensus on the main regional issues. The week ended with the sweetest surprises for Saudis, with the fiscal deficit falling, national income improving, and the return of salaries, bonuses and benefits to its previous level, seven months after the freeze.

The Chinese used to tell their enemies: “May you live in interesting times!” I hope that is not our curse, too!


— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi