Which ones to place our bets on today? No one knows any more. It is impossible to tell because the situation in the Middle East has changed again so rapidly that it forbids every prognosis on the victory of one or the other, of States or the ethno-religious communities they are and will remain composed of, even after so many years of uncertainty and violence.
It is the plebiscite of the States, one thinks seeing the massive Lebanese and Iraqi demonstrations which are neither Shiite nor Sunni, neither Kurdish, nor Christian, but which affirm the common aspiration for public authorities which are capable of securing the common goods, providing electricity and organising waste collection, which fights against corruption and delivers security for everyone.
This inter-community fraternisation is all the more stunning as it breaks, overnight, with the division of the Levant, which has been obvious and so contagious since the Lebanese conflicts of the last quarter of the 20th century, since the Gulf War, the fall of Saddam Hussein and of course the dreadful chaos which Syria plunged into in 2011.
This general trend seemed inevitably to put to an end to those States that had been drawn up in the wake of the First World War by the French and British powers, for the sole purpose of reigning on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by forcing hostile communities to coexist inside artificial borders.
Neither the balance of the Cold War, nor the strength of dictatorships were there any more to keep these States alive. They faded because they denied strong realities like the rise of the Lebanese Shiites or the preponderance of the Sunni in Syria and the Shiites in Iraq. They could only end up disappearing or transforming into confederations of autonomous cantons within the international borders preserved for the sole purpose of avoiding that the neighbouring countries’ appetite for conflict should lead to a hundred-year-old war.
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, maybe even Jordan: all these States born out of territorial compromises made by the European empires were dying, when suddenly their people take to the streets together, proclaiming themselves to be citizens of countries whose future nobody had believed in before, especially not themselves.
We want no more anarchy and no more wars, they say. We want no more clan leaders who only share the power to better share the loot. We want a State, they demand, a State for everyone, a rule of law, and faced with this turnaround in the situation, the Lebanese clan chiefs are hesitating and going back down while in Iraq their peers are shooting, massacring and are not ceding anything, not even in words.
Nothing is over yet, anywhere. There is no knowing if this fraternisation will last as the political forces indispensable for its organisation are non-existent, but a page is certainly turning in the Middle East, because a new fracture appeared, uniting the people, all communities together, and forming some kind of nations united in denouncing fallen and corrupted leaders. So what now?
So, one gets to dreaming about a new Levant that would not rush towards its own fragmentation but would march towards laic democratic States, towards a future that mobilises Algeria today and which had been sketched out by the 2011 revolutions before their retreat. This may only be a dream but this dream is definitely, obstinately shared by tens of millions of people, in the Maghreb as well as in the Mashrek.