Unfortunately, Seumas Milne, a crude anti-Western apologist for the Soviet Union, seems terminally incapable of understanding that there was always going to be a polarisation between secular Arab democrats and the Islamists of Ghannoushi, who anti-Western position was championed because it was based on the undoubted Western backing for secular despots
Milne writes in The Guardian,
."...politics has become increasingly polarised around a dysfunctional standoff over religion and secularism: between the centrist Islamist Ennahda party – which was the main target for violent repression under Ben Ali's dictatorship and won the 2011 elections – and opposition parties, both right and left, which accuse Ennahda of seeking to introduce a theocratic state by the back door"
The question that Milne needs to ask, rather that going on with his usual monomania about the Western Powers ability to "control" and "hi-jack" Arab Spring Revolutions, is whether there is any real basis in the introduction of repressive Islamist measures as certain secularists are suggesting in Tunisia. This is known as proper journalism.
For too long Milne has a one dimensional explanation for Middle Eastern politics, one where any anti-Western Islamist force is justified in using terror and intimidation, bullets or the ballot box to get rid of secular Arab national tyrants of the sort actually lauded by ex-Soviet apologists as Galloway ( who he absurdly aligns himself with in "anti-war" groups as the Stop the War Coalition )
The "inverted orientalism" of far left secular groups in Britain, that any violent Islamist organisation no matter its views, is justified in using violence to fight off "Western Imperialism", is utterly confused by the events of the Arab Spring as have been Western government prizing "investments" and "stability".
It seems Milne has been thrown off course by the response of secular Arab democrats to Islamists, as if they were somehow bound to be united by their hatred of the West. Yet events there have a dynamic of their own that do not conform to Milne's rehashed 1960s style "anti-colonial discourse". The Islamised version of Franz Fanon's 'The Wretched of the Earth'.
It is necessary to be wary of attempts by Western governments to try and co-opt either Islamists or secular Arab democrats who are willing to do the bidding only of the West and to forget the needs of the people who rose up against tyranny.
The important fact is to go beyond the fanatical rhetoric of deranged British extreme Islamists and secular nihilists ( Islamo-Leninists ) and to hope that the efforts of a pluralistic democracy in Arab lands can develop. Western Powers could help only by non-military means, through fair trade and aid.
Tunisia has a chance of this. Libya has descended into chaos, though not on the scale of Syria. The level of Western military intervention in backing jihadist militias was cynical, though certain restraints on Gaddafi via no-fly zones were about the most that could have been done. Minimal attempts to prevent massacre without getting involved were the most that should have been done.
As for the catastrophe in Syria, this is a result of a continuity in the Western Powers being cravenly dependent upon Saudi Arabia, this oil protectorate that is vying with Iran for hegemony in the Middle East with Iran ( whose regime is far less repressive and positively enlightened compared with Saudi Arabia ).
The necessity for the Western Powers is to reduce over dependence upon Saudi oil and start to advocate "regime change " there. The reason it will not is that the minority Sunni rulers are beset, as they are in the far more liberal monarchist Bahrain, by rising Shia discontent, protests crushed with the direct aid of British military equipment.
That allows the West, hostile to Iran, as it acts as a bulwark to control over Central Asian oil and gas, to ally with Saudi Arabia and make a mockery of the cant phrase "Democratic Geopolitics" and tacitly allow it to pour billions of oil dollars into Syria to back unsavoury Islamist jihadists and "rebels".
Should Syria descend into further chaos a widespread conflagration between sectarian forces could erupt in Arab lands between Shia and Sunni: Syria is becoming more like Iraq after 2003 on a daily basis, with sectarian attacks on Mosques and the gruesome beheadings of Allwawite shia soldiers by sunni militias.
In conclusion what events across the Arab land prove is not only the outbreak of anger created by the foolish Western policy of backing dictatorships in the name of "stability" for almost half a century.Not to mention the the criminal idiocy of the Iraq invasion. Yet they also reflect that these tensions pre-date Western involvement.
Despite what unintelligent nihilist ideologues as Seumas Milne are craving to believe, the West did not "cause" these sectarian tensions. It has done much to exacerbate them but the conflict between Sunni and Shia goes back centuries as does Arab rivalry with Iran ( Persia ). Objectivity is vital in these tense times.