October saw multiple events of importance transpire. The most talked about is the death of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The National Transitional Council has officially declared victory, and now it must get to work in securing weapons stockpiles, disarming militias, preparing for elections, and meeting the expectations of a population eager for political and socio-economic progress. In addition, Qaddafi’s execution has a regional impact. It sends the message to opposition parties that violence can topple dictators even if their security forces stand by them, and it sends a message to ruling dictators that they will be killed if they lose such a conflict.
The U.S. announced that it will withdraw all military forces from Iraq by the end of the year except for a force of less than 200 personnel, intended to protect the embassy in Baghdad. The Iraqi government was unwilling to give the U.S. troops immunity from prosecution because of the insistence of the Sadrists in parliament who are loyal to the Iranian-backed cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. However, President Obama said that there would be ongoing discussions regarding training of Iraqi security forces and other forms of assistance, and so it is possible that there will be a return of a minor level of troops. This is undoubtedly a victory for Iran, though the Iraqi resistance of U.S. demands proves the government’s legitimacy and sovereignty. The Iraqi decision disappoints the U.S. and satisfies Iran, but its show of independence is a sign of Iraq’s progress in becoming a democracy.
On October 23, Tunisia held a successful election with high turnout. The Islamist Ennahda Party won decisively with over 40 percent of the votes, but it does not have a majority. It will have to form an alliance with other parties to form the interim government that will oversee the writing of the draft constitution. Ennahda won because it successfully portrayed itself as a moderate force, especially when compared to the often-violent Salafists. Ennahda has the most to gain and most to lose in the coming months, as it will be blamed or commended for whatever happens in Tunisia. The coming months will show Ennahda’s true agenda as it shapes the future of the country.
The prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, where over 1,000 terrorists were freed so Gilad Shalit could come home, was another big moment. The Israelis were overjoyed at the return of the young soldier, and Hamas portrayed the exchange as a vindication of its methods. This exchange deal is certain to motivate certain acts of terrorism and is politically-beneficial to Hamas. Fatah will suffer as it can be criticized for being an ineffective protector of Palestinians.
The U.S. announced that it foiled a plot by the Iranian regime to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by setting off an explosion when he was dining. The Saudi official was likely targeted because confidential cables released by Wikileaks quoted him as privately urging the U.S. to bomb Iran. The perpetrators also discussed potential attacks on the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington D.C. and Buenos Aires. The plot has numerous repercussions: It effectively ends any hopes of a diplomatic engagement with Iran; it shows the world the threat that the regime poses; it exposes how Iran uses proxies, as the IRGC sought to enlist the help of Mexican drug traffickers; it heightens tension between the pro-American Arabs and Iran; and it undermines confidence in the Iranian regime’s capabilities. The plot, therefore, is in some ways a positive development for the West and it will assist its efforts to isolate and “punish” the regime for its nuclear program.
Finally, the death of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan has potentially huge ramifications. Prince Nayef, an ally of the Wahhabists, has replaced him. King Abdullah is of old age and poor health, so it won’t be long before Nayef becomes the leader of Saudi Arabia. He is viewed with great suspicion by the liberal elements of Saudi Arabia. He is also viewed as a strongman which, when coupled with his Wahhabist ties, will make Iran view Saudi Arabia with even more hostility. A key decision for Nayef will be whether to confront the Saudi youth and reformist elements by rolling back King Abdullah’s reforms and taking a staunch stand against demonstrations and demands for greater rights.
Wikistrat Bottom Lines
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