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The Arab World: History of Revolts and Global Nexus

The Arab World: History of Revolts and Global Nexus

In fractious, rife-with-conflicts Arab World, described for long time as immune towards democratic transformations, revolts sneaked in, toppling some regimes and shaking the thrones of others. Almost three years have passed since the advent of the Arab Spring and Arab World statesmen and decision-makers have been trying to analyze such historic transformation in order find a foothold in a region that has been looking different, with new dynamics, elites and political landscape. In our attempt to read the portents, uncover the wellsprings of the Arab Spring and link it to other incidents and circumstances, I contend, this pursuit is often a vain one especially given that the available literature is not yet adequate to explain the various aspects of what has gone before. Fully aware of this gap, I aim to reveal first of all a number of the missing contours and dynamics in order to further articulate the term “Arab Spring”. In the same vein, I will also try to analyze the current political and geopolitical conditions in the Middle East in an effort to draw some relevant conclusions and provide a working prognosis of the future course of events in the region.

It can be said that the events of the current Arab Spring are molded within two composite layers, each with its own features, characteristics and hypotheses. The first layer operates within a regional setting. Within this framework, the current “Arab Spring” has proved to have its own characteristics and features which require further analysis.

Arab World never had one state that congregates all Arab peoples. However, as they had common history, language, religion and traditions, they have always felt closer to other Arabs rather than any other nation. Tribal links remain evident and one family can exist in two or three or more Arab states. The identity of Arab states (as of today) had never emerged before the Sykes–Picot of 1916, which divided the Arab World into separate states, regimes and nationals.

In fact, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire (30 October 1918 – 1 November 1922) was a political event that carried the strategic vision of neutralizing any future threat from the Ottoman Empire and aborting any potential rerise through partitioning and dividing the huge conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire into several new nations.

In this context, Raymond Hinnebusch points out that imperialism fragmented the region into a multitude of relatively weak and, to an extent, artificial states, at odds with each other. The weakening of the state effectiveness and unpopular ruling elites amongst Arab general public was referred to by Toby Dodge who terms Arab regimes as ‘externally imposed, weak and illegitimate post-colonial states’. Similarly, Bernard Lewis criticizes ‘faked’ democracy in Arab political discourse pointing out the ‘sham parliamentary regimes that were installed and bequeathed by British and French empires.’ For that, many see in the elimination of some Arab leaders, like Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein or Gamal Abdel Nassir, part of a conspiracy aimed to get rid of any regional power (leader) who can be serious caveat trying to re-organize the system for more independent policies.

Hinnebusch says that such relatively weak states, emerged as Western protectorates against opposition, seeking external patrons and resources for the regional power struggle and survival, have remained dependent for their security on the Western global powers long after formal independence. Dreading the prospect of coups or revolutions, the preeminence of security issues over social issues in the Arab area is evidenced by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2010 figures, which shows that Arab states have spent a total of $117.6 billion in military expenditures, while about 34.6 million Arabs were living under the two-dollars-a-day international poverty line in 2005, and double-digit unemployment rates.

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