Mideast Expert: Outlook for Region Bleak Despite Revolts

Tuesday, 19 Apr 2011 06:16 PM

By Andra Varin and Ashley Martella

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The popular protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak are unlikely to lead to real democracy in Egypt, and Syrian protesters won’t succeed in overthrowing their rulers because of the regime’s willingness to resort to violence against its own people, independent foreign journalist Michael Totten tells Newsmax TV.

“Egypt, unfortunately, has probably the highest likelihood of a bad outcome” of all the Arab world countries where demonstrators have been defying despotic governments, he says.

Totten is the author of “The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel,” published by Encounter Books.

In it, Totten describes how a democratic revolution in Lebanon was able in 2005 to beat back the Syrian military occupation – only to be defeated again.

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“Over the past couple of years Syria with Iran and its proxy militia Hezbollah has been effectively reconquering the country violently,” Totten tells Newsmax TV.

To the United States, “Hezbollah is not much of a threat right now,” but it’s a different story in Israel, Totten says.

“To Israel, it is the largest threat that currently exists,” he said. “It is the only Arab fighting force that has ever successfully fought Israel to a standstill.”

In the Middle East, Totten said, those willing to exercise the most ruthless violence are inevitably the victors, and he does not hold high hopes for the future of Egypt.

“In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is the primary opposition movement to the old government, and it has the support perhaps of 30 to 40 percent of Egyptian society.”

Totten sees Tunisia as the Arab nation where democracy has the best chance of succeeding. Tunisia has a “broad middle class” that is highly educated, is pro-Western and has a history of supporting women’s rights.

He said that when he visited the North African nation a few years ago, “the country felt pre-democratic to me in a way that no other Arab country has ever felt.”

“Egypt, unfortunately, felt like Iran may have felt before the revolution in 1979,” he says.

In Syria, protesters do not stand a realistic chance of toppling President Bashar Assad, Totten says.

Like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Assad is willing to fight to maintain power. And unlike Libya, “there is almost no chance at all that there is going to be a NATO intervention in Syria” to try to protect the people, Totten adds.

Totten said the rise of social media may do something to spare the Syrian people who have defied the regime because Assad, although probably not reluctant to kill his own people, doesn’t want the world find out about it.

“They are at least somewhat reluctant to mass-murder because people would know,” Totten says.

Although foreign intervention is Syria is highly unlikely, “Assad is afraid of the United States and American power and NATO power,” he says.

As for Iran, the Green Revolution seems to have been stopped in its tracks. Totten doesn’t think the movement will become strong enough to overthrow the regime, or that moderates will replace the supreme ayatollah at the top.

“The Iranian government is willing to kill Iranian citizens to stay in power,” he adds.

“That’s how it’s always been in the Middle East. The region has always been governed by violence and it still is.”

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