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The ‘Arab Spring’ has Wilted

Paper No. 5521                                      Dated 4-July-2013

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

The ‘Arab Spring’ which sprouted in the Arab World in December 2010 and widely spread in the Arab World in 2011, now appears to be wilted. Egypt which emerged as the most iconic manifestation of the ‘Arab Spring’ is in the throes of a Second Revolution after the First Revolution in 2011 which heralded the onset of the ‘Arab Spring’ in what used to be the leading and powerful nation in the ‘Arab World’.

The ‘Arab Spring’ has wilted if not failed as the different actors, both Arab, regional and global, had different takes on its emergence and how it served their respective political and strategic interests. Where does one begin the analysis as to why and how the ‘Arab Spring’ has wilted? Really it should begin with the political dynamics in the Arab World and that too in Egypt which essentially is the nerve-centre of the Arab World though the ‘Arab Spring’ commenced from Tunisia.

Egypt had been under severe authoritarian military rule of President Hosni Mubarak for nearly three decades. Resentment due to misgovernance and corruption had become endemic. The Egyptian masses were restive and seeking a regime change which could usher in democracy and democratic institutions. It must be remembered that Egyptian elites and Egyptian masses were comparatively more progressive than the rest of the Arab World.

The Tunisian events in terms of street-power being successful in effecting hated regime changes provided a model for the Egyptian masses to mobilise their street-power in bringing the downfall of the Mubarak regime despite bitter opposition and bloodshed at Tahrir Square and other places. Tahrir Square upsurge is too recent and does not need to be recounted here

Tahrir Square and the street-power of the Arab World in successfully bringing the downfall of autocratic regimes became the rallying model and clarion call within Arab countries.

Regretfully, the ‘Arab Spring’ could not bloom despite being a novel phenomenon in Egypt itself which could be termed as the laboratory for testing enlargement of the ‘Arab Spring’ in the rest of the Arab World. We shall discuss the reasons a little later, but first a look at the impact on the rest of the Arab World and on the United States which is the predominant external power shaping the Arab World to suit its strategic blueprint.

The ‘Arab Spring’ caused acute consternation in the monarchical Arab regimes of the Persian Gulf Region where the political suppression of the masses was even more severe ad where toppling of monarchical regimes by Arab revolutionary fervour is an ever-present threat.

The first manifestation of the ‘Arab Spring’ erupted in Bahrain where the ruling family presides over a Shia majority with no power-sharing political or economic. The ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in Bahrain was brutally put down by Bahrain Armed Forces and aided by a military intervention by Saudi Arabian Armed Forces. The ‘Arab Spring’ presents an existential threat to Arab monarchical regimes.

The tragedy in the case of the Bahrain Revolution was that the United States which was welcoming the emergence of the ‘Arab Spring’ phenomenon generally in the Arab World now appeared selective in terms of its application and encouraging it.

Unite States professions for promotion of democracy and Human Rights in the Arab World were conveniently put in the dustbin because the United States could not risk losing the Persian Gulf monarchies support, especially that of Saudi Arabia. United States needed them in its confrontation with Iran.

Reverting to the political dynamics in Egypt in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’ Tahrir Square mass movement which brought about a regime change, two developments emerged.

The first one was that though President Morsi assumed power in Egypt as a result of democratic processes but it was not the ‘pure democracy’ that the Egyptian masses had aspired for. Perceptionaly within Egypt the impression gained that President Morsi was only a front for the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist organisation which had a very old and well organised network in the whole of Egypt.

It was being widely perceived within Egypt that their ‘Arab Spring’ movement had been short-changed and that the Muslim Brotherhood had effected a back-door entry to acquire political power.

In tandem the Egyptian Armed Forces were interested observers on the side-lines. What happened yesterday in Cairo of the Egyptian military of putting into effect a ‘Silent military coup’ and displacing President Morsi appears to be the sum total of the wilting of the ‘Arab Spring’.

Curiously, the United States seems to be up to some devious moves as in response to last week’s Second Revolution in Tahrir Square, it moved US Marine Forces from European locations to Italy, closer to Egypt for speedy intervention. What is the United States end-game in Egypt in relation to the ‘Arab Spring’ related events?

The United States and Saudi Arabia initially in Syria tried to label the initial protests as the outbreak of ‘Arab Spring’ there. In retrospect this labelling seems to have been a fig-leaf for covering up the US-Saudi Arabia-Turkey blue print to use an intervention in Syria to settle scores with Iran.

Concluding, it can be stated that the ‘Arab Spring’ was a phenomenon which reflected noble aspirations of the Arab World masses for democracy and democratic institutions and that should not be faulted by any conceivable quarter. However as events have panned out the ‘Arab Spring’ has been “misused” by an unholy combination of political expediency of  the United States, Arab monarchical regimes, Arab military regimes and Islamist Organisations in the Arab World.

The ‘Arab Spring’ has wilted as a result of the unholy combination named above but in terms of perspectives one cannot be pessimistic.

The ‘Arab Spring’ cannot be stalled for ever; it can bloom again as Arab masses are becoming politically more conscious and as they get more linked to global social websites spreading political awakening.

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