THE SPLINTERING MIDDLE EAST: Why Camerlot’s Middle East policy is an opportunistic, directionless mess.

Egypt’s new explosion is merely the first of many to come.

Senior Tory tells Slog, “David’s trouble is that he thinks listening is enough. Well paying attention helps too.”

Washington source calls Libya “one to avoid”

Essam Sharaf was touring areas where Muslim/Christian clashes occurred yesterday. “The most serious threat to the country’s security is tampering with national unity, and the stirring of discord between Muslim and Christian sons of Egypt,” said Mr Sharaf in a televised address later in the day.

This development – along with the hardening of Egyptian attitudes towards Israel, fraternal messages sent to Iran, and messages of support from Turkish fascist Recep Erdogan – were being viewed (I’m not kidding) as “alarming and surprising” in the Foreign Office this morning. They – and the US East Coast ‘progressive’ fraternity – will never learn. But closer to home, neither will David Cameron.

Because, like most Westerners, he understands close to zero about the Arabist outlook and heritage, every observation made by the Prime Minister to date on the Middle East has been an inflammable mix of simplistic, triumphalist and culturally ignorant twaddle. If Dave simply Googled ‘Arab Spring’, he could learn enough in half an hour to realise what a complete clot he’s made of himself. But Mr Cameron has learning difficulties. This is apparent whether he’s hiring former Wapping Liars, inventing Big Societies, encouraging the idea of a Leg Up, or getting the credit-card/economic growth thing the wrong way round.

I watched footage last night of Libyan ‘freedom fighters’ closing in on Gadhaffi. As ever, all the bullets were going up into the air – although to be fair, one sequence showed two blokes firing at the blank wall of a tower-block. As early as last July, Libyan opposition factions began firing at each other in Benghazi. Last month, this is what a trusted Washington source told The Slog:

” The more we contact and get up to speed with the Libyan rebel groups, the worse it looks. They’re disorganised, and to our mind, incapable of forming a stable government at any time in the foreseeable future. Whatever the President says in public, Uncle Sam is staying well clear of Libyan commitments – and the Europeans would be wise to do the same.”

Elsewhere among the green shoots of Arab democracy, police in Tunisia arrested dozens of Islamists who, they claim, tried to attack a TV station in the capital, Tunis, in protest at the showing of the film Persepolis. Islam trying to censor art? Surely not.

31 people died in Syrian clashes yesterday, as the situation there threatened to deteriorate into civil war. For what it’s worth, the BBC says that the opposition to Al Assad – The Syrian National Counci, or SNC – ‘is a coalition of seven Syrian opposition factions aimed at offering a credible alternative to Mr Assad’s regime’. So as you can imagine, getting agreement among them is going to be a cinch. Here’s a brief run-down of the main players:

The Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) – a coalition of 40 opposition blocs – and umpteen Kurdish factions. Individual chiefs, warlords and assorted well-owners make up the balance.

Overlaying this rainbow of polemics are the cultural splits: Syria has an array of competing factions and allegiances, including some Sunni groups falling behind Saudi Arabia pitted against Assad’s Alawite minority with ties to Shiite power Iran.

Aside from the obviously impossible task of pulling this lot together without coercion, we should all note that the usual telltale words are in most of the group titles – Democratic, Brotherhood, Revolution and so forth.

Here is a serious and mind-concentrating thought: if you take each of the Arab States quoted above, and multiply them by the latest factional estimates involved in each one, you arrive at a grand total of 430 separate contact points – many if which have, once the fighting against a common enemy is over, almost completely antithetical politico-cultural agendas.

David Cameron bragged about his ‘success’ in Libya at the Conservative Conference last week. This is how he dismissed those who had advised against the intervention: they had, he laughed, argued that

“Libya’s not our concern”, “don’t start what you can’t finish”, and even – “Arabs don’t do democracy.”’

As a senior Conservative (inexplicably, still without a portfolio) told me last Wednesday, “David’s trouble is that he thinks listening is enough. Well paying attention helps too. And he doesn’t do that”.

It’s hard to lose the growing sense in my mind that we have an ignorant clown as our Prime Minister. He’s less likely to do serious damage than the Opposition, as they have goals and brains that are entirely deranged. But surely we can do better than this?