At this writing, circumstances in the Middle East may change between this sentence and my last paragraph.
What began in mid-December as a Tunisian uprising that sent President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali into Saudi exile on January 14 quickly inspired Cairo’s Tahrir Square rebellion. Hosni Mubarak — who ruled Egypt for 29 years, eight more than Cleopatra — hastily retired when his people hounded him from Heliopolis Palace into his vacation compound in Sharm el-Sheik.
Just outside Mubarak’s hideaway, two Iranian warships this week floated north through the Suez Canal. This was the Iranian navy’s first appearance in the Arab equivalent of the Panama Canal since 1979’s revolution installed the Ayatollah Khomeini and his joyless, sexist, bloodthirsty theocracy.
Egypt now is ruled by a military “junta” — as National Public Radio calls the interim government, employing a word that went the way of Latin America’s military dictatorships. Egypt’s “junta” is trying to hold things together until elections occur. It also faces a new challenge: Libyan refugees pouring in across the sands to escape their own country’s chaos.
Eastern Libya is controlled by regular citizens, freshly armed by soldiers who largely disobeyed orders to shoot their fellow countrymen. That ugly duty has fallen to trigger-happy mercenaries imported for that purpose from Chad, Niger, and the Sudan by the self-styled Mad Dog of the Middle East, Moammar Gaddafi. Soon after ordering two fighter jets to bomb his constituents, prompting the pilots to defect to Malta, Gaddafi ranted on Libyan TV for 75 minutes.
“I have not yet ordered the use of force,” Gaddafi claimed Tuesday. “When I do, everything will burn.”
Citing a Libyan source, former Middle East CIA officer Robert Baer wrote at Time.com that Gaddafi has instructed his operatives to sabotage Libya’s oil fields, supposedly to show Libyans that without Gaddafi, things could get really crazy. Libyan production already is down 25 percent, and Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol have suspended operations there.
Nearby, relatively calm and reasonable Morocco suddenly faces its own woes. On Monday, Interior Minister Taeib Cherqaoui announced that among some 37,000 demonstrators, at least 128 people were wounded while five charred bodies were found in a bank that protesters had torched.
In Bahrain’s capital of Manama, Pearl Square witnesses daily protests and occasional state-sponsored bullets aimed squarely into the stomachs of peaceful demonstrators.
Yemen could spin into total disarray, with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — led by American-born radical Muslim Anwar al-Awlaki — waiting to pounce on any emerging opportunity. He is the spiritual leader to accused crotch-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Next door, the House of Saud — simultaneously loyal U.S. allies and two-faced sponsors of Islamofascist mosques and Wahhabi terror — nervously watches these developments.
So do Israelis, who must feel like residents of the nicest mansion in Malibu . . . just as the neighbors’ homes catch fire, and the Santa Ana–wind–driven flames race up the canyon with menacing urgency.