Remember our heady optimism that democracy would spread across the Middle East as peace and equality triumphed over dictatorships? This is beginning to look like a distant memory. I have visited the Middle East a lot but not as much as I would like. The area fascinates me, and I know that there is no prospect of peace in this world if we do not resolve some of the issues and problems in the region.
Yet it is not a good thing that the US embassies in the Muslim world are closing, as is the British embassy in Yemen, combined with the warning to Americans and other nations about overseas travel.
The Islamist terrorist threat has not gone away. Indeed, the decision of the military to remove Egypt’s democratically elected president has not created the uproar many thought it would - but sadly this shows that democracy is not going to come easily to the region. We may not have liked the democractically elected leader of Egypt but his country chose him. Now the military rules once more.
I look at the situation in Syria with horror, but what worries me almost more is the way in which Lebanon, Turkey, and potentially Jordan are being sucked into this Syrian civil conflict that is being increasingly taken over by a sectarian and religious war. My concern is also for Israel, and how it can stay stable and not involved. One commentator described how:
‘It’s as if the Middle East were simultaneously experiencing the French Revolution and the Thirty Years’ Wars.’
We, in the UK, are observers in an ever worsening conflict not 5 hours flight from us. I would like to predicts this ends well but it is going to take a lot of time and is going to be very messy. The French Revolution and the 30 Years War were similarly long, bloody and very messy but democracy and peace prevailed in the end.