Yesterday, 7th February, Khartoum confirmed that Southern Sudan has voted 98% for independence from the North. If it holds, this will be spectacular - the first time sinc Czechoslovakia that a country has been peacefully divided by majority vote, and the very first time in one of Europe's old colonies. What is most significant of all is that the Muslim rulers of the North appear to be accepting the result of the vote - an example to all other governments in the Arab world.
The usual pattern has been that an autocratic regime has allowed a vote, has not liked the result and has cracked down mercilessly. This is what the Shah did in Iran in 1953, overthrowing the elected government of Mossadegh with the backing of the West, to undo the nationalization of tghe oil companies. It is what the army did in Algeria in 1992, with the backing of the West, cancelling the elections half way through because Muslim parties were winning. It is what Israel did in 2006, with the backing of the West, when Hamas won the majority of the seats in an election under UN auspices. And of course the Arab World is not alone; for example there was Chile 1n 1974.
In 1953 the motive of the West was pure greed - to get back the Western oil companies. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, American policy has been dominated by paranoid fear of Islam (which did not prevent them from funding the fundamantalist attack on the Soviets in Afghanistan; Bin Laden was a CIA agent!!!). Now they are desperately hoping that Mubarek can rig the elections in Egypt in the next few months. So why should the West not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood? That will need another blog.