Fire and brimstone: the year in politics for a region in flux, part 2

Published December 30th, 2012 - 16:43 GMT

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Egypt embassy protests
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Image 1 of 9: In September, a low-budget movie had a high impact on the Muslim world. When the 14-min trailer for 'Innocence of Muslims' surfaced online, viewers were outraged at more than poor acting. The US-made anti-Islam film's blasphemous script inspired global protests and muddied geopolitical waters with the 9/11 murder of Libya's US ambassador.

Chris Stevens died in 2012
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Image 1 of 9: September 11 brought misery once again to the US when its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked. In a raid initially linked to 'Innocence of Muslims' but later pinned to al-Qaeda, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 3 others were killed. Following the attack, 2013 should see US security beefed-up overseas.

Saudi's King stole the spotlight in 2012
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Image 1 of 9: Saudi in 2012 was left keeping a rein on dying-King rumors and protests in the East. Shias of Qatif kept trying it on with uprising sprees that took lives up till the year's end but never quite took hold in a Kingdom that has deemed protests unholy. As crown princes fell, succession was a thorny topic, leaving 2013 hanging in the royal balance.

Palestine home demolition by Israel
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Image 1 of 9: 2012 saw existential shifts along Israeli borders. Egypt went Brotherhood which is as Palestinian-hugging as they get, and Syria got rowdy. Palestine upgraded its UN status, rounding a feisty Gazan resistance to the Pillar of Defense. Looking down the gun barrel of the Iranian menace, Israel may feel a Billy no-mates, but it bulldozes on unfazed.

Kuwaiti protests
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Image 1 of 9: Kuwait racked up 2 controversial elections in 2012. Opposition activists boycotted take-2 of the December polls following an unpopular change to the electoral law. And - flying in the face of the government’s ban on gatherings of more than 20, unless approved by the interior ministry - large-scale protests have continued to sweep the country.

Tunisia's Salafis
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Image 1 of 9: Tunisia's austere Salafis gained ever-increasing prominence in the North African revolution pioneer-land. The AQ-affiliates, who take a literal view of the Quran, are believed to be behind the anti-US embassy attacks and are pushing a more conservative agenda on society, which many blame for landing a raped woman in trouble with the Tunisian law.

Sudan Yarmouk
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Image 1 of 9: Sudan: An Israeli strike on a Sudanese weapons factory in October was neither confirmed nor denied. Israel responded by saying Sudan was a state sponsor of terrorism. The strike was thought to be part of a years-long covert war in the region and a 'dry run' for a future attack on Iran. Sudan also tried to kick off with its own Arab Spring.

Al Qaeda operative ring is rounded up in Iraq
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Image 1 of 9: Al Qaeda was hard hit this year, losing its terror touch. With drones striking, it was inevitable that AQ took blows to figurehead targets. Their top man in Iraq buckled along with operatives in Yemen. The Arab Spring usurped the war against terror and the battle front got spread thinly as they tried to get back in through Tunisia & Syria.

Qatar's Emir does Gaza in 2012
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Image 1 of 9: In October Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and his VIP posse made a 4-hour stop-off in Gaza. The landmark visit was the first by a head of state since Hamas took over in 2007. Having also spoken out for Arab military intervention in Syria, Qatar looks set to up its role in regional affairs in 2013.

After the highs and idealism of 2011, this year felt more like the morning after. In 2012, the "Arab Spring" morphed into the "Syrian Winter". And the gritty reality of the struggles consuming the region became apparent.

In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya Islamists came to power and the struggles of post-revolution and counter-revolutionary forces took hold. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad's forces continue to commit atrocities, and an increasingly powerful armed opposition joined the dirty war.

Celebrations of those newly in power were met with protests by those wary of new forms of tyranny. Historical elections were held, in many places for the first time in decades. But the gun continued to compete with the ballot box in an often uneasy rivalry. If anything defined 2012, it was a year of contradictions and competing power.

As fears over the predicted "end of the world" grew, Iran's standoff with Israel and the West persisted. The Kurds drew ever closer to realizing the dream of a future state promised them by the British almost a century ago with gains in Syria and Iraq and Turkey's assault on PKK members pushing more Kurds into neighboring countries.

With each successive uprising in the Arab Spring being more bloody than the last, Iraq became the forgotten conflict. While theoretically, no explosions makes news headlines in Iraq, there was certainly no stalemate, as a steady diet of explosions merged toward the end of year with Sunnis protesting for their share of the new Iraq power-stake.

Meanwhile, Turkey emerged in the bloody game of Risk that is Middle East politics as a key power broker along with Egypt, where the new President Mohamed Morsi negotiated a quick end to an Israeli assault on Gaza, but at the same time caused no end of hulabaloo back home with his power-play and constitutional conjury.

2012 was a year that revolutions got over the giddy success of 2011, and sobriety set in around the same time as Islamists took power. A scramble for the Middle East ensued as the Syrian conflict intensified and afflicted the entire region with its geopolitical fallout. Bringing you the year in politics from a region gripped by battles for power.

 

Share your thoughts on the year past: Was this a good or bad year for the Middle East? Is 2013 likely to solve any persistent issues or power-conflicts?

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