Experts and analysts are not hesitating in calling the situation in Libya a civil war. How long will it last? What countries may suffer the same fate? Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Middle East Institute, in an interview with RIA Novosti’s Samir Shakhbaz claims that revolutionary processes can take a long time and may affect not only the Persian Gulf monarchies but also countries throughout Africa.
Shakhbaz: Hello, Mr Satanovsky. How long do you believe the international community’s attention will be riveted on the Arab revolutions?
Satanovsky: Judging by the European experience: no longer than 70 or 75 years. In Europe, the shooting started in 1914 and didn’t stop until 1945. This suggests the most intensive phase takes about 30 years. I am not joking.
Shakhbaz: Do you mean that this fighting in Libya will continue for 30 years, with bomber jets shelling cities?
Satanovsky: Well, not necessarily in Libya. I am not referring specifically to the aerial bombardment of cities. What I’m saying is that the succession of wars, revolutions, riots, upheavals and civil wars – and what is happening in Libya is certainly a civil war – will take a long time. The whole region is ablaze, from Morocco to Pakistan, from the borders of Turkey, which is likely to avoid becoming embroiled, to Africa. It won’t be limited to the Middle East and North Africa. The region will go through what Europe experienced in 1914-1918. These processes always take a long time.
Shakhbaz: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Libya is the only country that has descended into conflict now. Even Egypt emerged from its revolution almost unscathed.
Satanovsky: Egypt is heading for a collapse as soon as the Nile’s water supply dwindles. Although it was not widely publicized, the international water sharing agreement which entitled Egypt and Sudan to consume 90% of the Nile water supply was de facto terminated on March 1. Six upstream countries signed a new agreement instead to build hydraulic structures, which will dramatically cut the water flow to Sudan as well as Egypt. Humans can survive without oil, but not without water. When the worst comes to the worst, today’s worries will seem petty and insignificant.
Shakhbaz: What is happening in other Middle Eastern countries? There is the Day of Wrath in Iraq, and the growing tensions in Bahrain, although officials there claim they are still in control.
Satanovsky: The government is not fully in control in Bahrain. They simply thwarted the first wave of unrest thanks to the intervention of Saudi
Arabian and Kuwaiti forces. With support of Iran the Shiite population, which constitutes the majority in Bahrain, is trying to overthrow the Sunni dynasty which has ruled the country for 200 years, This makes the future of the U.S. Navy base in that country most uncertain, and the country will inevitably become increasingly unstable.
The instability may also spread to the neighboring eastern part of Saudi Arabia, where the Sunni Muslims heavily oppress the local Shiite population. Bahrain is a more or less liberal country. The local population does not know much about what is going on in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
But the Saudi Shiites are in for trouble because the situation in the country could explode any minute. Yemen is heating up as well, and is bound to split in two, and I don’t think Saudi Arabia will survive the collapse. A lot of blood was shed and lives lost in putting it together in the early 20th century, but now the only thing bonding its provinces together is violence. If this happens, even I cannot say what would happen to the other Gulf monarchies.
We have not yet seen the end of the unrest that has gripped North Africa and the Middle East. Algeria could still follow Libya’s suit and Morocco might do the same. In January we saw Sudan split peacefully, but separatist sentiments have not been extinguished there. Former colonies tied together in unnatural conglomerates in the past by the English or the French never became integrated states. If this is so, we may still see disintegration of Nigeria, Kenya and other African countries.
Shakhbaz: Mr Satanovsky, thank you for sharing your thoughts.