Now that almost everybody is either back to school or work, here is my take on the hot issues of the summer of 2012. In the order of importance, these issues are: the ‘Dubai is back’ story, the UAE’s arrest of several Islamist activists, the Gulf war syndrome and finally the Syrian uprising which is getting bloodier by the day. These issues are still making the headlines and will not fade away until the end of the year.
‘Dubai is back’ was by far the most sizzling issue this summer and is bound to be the top story of the year 2012 as well. Dubai, which had a tumble in 2008 was badly bruised by the worst global financial crisis in decades. It had to go immediately into an intensive care of a sort. By 2009, the Dubai economy started to stabilise and a year later the city was finally recovering gracefully. However, it was not until the Arab Spring of 2011 that Dubai was up and running again. The events of the past two years confirmed Dubai’s status as the one and the only safe heaven around. The city is living an economic spring of its own and it is back to business as usual.
The second tantalising issue of the summer is the arrest of nearly 60 Islamists across the UAE. The country’s attorney-general declared that these detainees have revealed plans to jeopardise the state security and were linked to suspicious foreign organisations. The country never had a history of political arrests and this was the largest security operation of its kind in the 40 years since the establishment of the UAE in 1971.
Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, is on record saying: “The arrest of various Islamist activists in the UAE is not an event to celebrate. It poses a challenge that can alter the nature of our society, which we view as a small and tightly knit one.”
The arrest of so many citizens, while it has shattered 40 years of political innocence of the country is a timely warning that the UAE is on top alert and on guard. Needless to say these are difficult time for the traditionally tolerant and security conscious country. To keep its stability and prosperity, security is essential for the UAE and will always remain as the top national priority.
The prospect of a fourth Gulf war was the third most talked about issue during the summer. The Arab Gulf is a difficult region that is full of tensions of all kinds all year round. However, 2012 has been a particularly difficult year for Iran and everybody else in the Gulf.
The tight economic, financial and oil sanctions are getting tighter by the day but Iran is not giving up on its determination to go ahead with its uranium enrichment programme.
The latest IAEA report said that Iran has expanded its nuclear programme and was hampering international inspection. The international community is not in the mood to accept a Nuclear Iran and Israel is preparing a pre-emptive strike against Iran.
Those who listen tentatively to Israeli official announcements and media utterings get the impression that a military action is about to take place any time in the next eight weeks. Israeli threats asides, an actual war is extremely unlikely in the near future and certainly not during 2012.
This is so for the simple reason that economic sanctions not military action is still the name of the game when it comes to handling Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. Also significant is the fact that the custodians of US military and foreign policy do not favour war for the time being. Indeed, the current commander-in-chief at the White House wants to be remembered as a man of peace and he is in no mood for a war anywhere or anytime soon. It is the economy not war that is uppermost in his mind during this crucial election year.
The last issue of this politically hot summer was the 18-month-long uprising in Syria. The brutal Al Assad regime in Syria is getting more brutal and certainly less legitimate by the day. The uprising led by the Free Syrian Army is picking up more momentum by the minute and seems to be nearing the last ten minutes of the hour. But during these last 10 minutes the regime is bound to be more brutal and revengeful. Kofi Annan tried but in vain to stop the regime’s brutality and the diplomatic mission of Lakhdar Brahimi is almost dead on arrival.
These were the most controversial and hotly debated topic during this summer. Each issue reveals the soul of the place and has already made a lasting impact on the mood of the people in the region. The ‘Dubai is back’ story will shape the future of Dubai which looks very promising. The unusual arrests in the UAE will contribute to the political maturity of the country. And while we should expect tensions in the perpetually tense Arab Gulf to escalate, war is not very likely anytime soon. However, Syria remains the most tragic case at the moment but as the dust settles, it will eventually join the other Arab Spring states as they head for a more democratic future.
Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla is a professor of political science. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Abdulkhaleq_UAE