Five years of the Arab Spring
December 18th, 2010, is considered to be start of the dramatic events in the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring. The day before, in the Tunisian town of Menzel Bouzaiane a young fruit seller, Mohammed Boazizi, attempted to burn himself to death. It provoked riots and mass protests. Less than a month later, on January 14th, the regime fell and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country for Saudi Arabia, and the transition period of military rule began. The events themselves were called the "Second Jasmine Revolution". Tunisia suffered much less than some other countries, where according to the UN about 219 people were killed and about 510 were wounded.
Following this, Algeria became the first Arab country in the chain reaction of riots, which began with mass demonstrations in late December. It was quite easy to save the country: the president announced the end of the state of emergency.
Since January 2011, protests began to consume the internal life of an increasing number of countries. In some countries they were quickly localized and stopped, in others they required some reforms. For some countries still, these were stopped but they required brutal suppression, and lastly there are countries in which the conflicts are still going on.
It is interesting that self-immolation acts were committed in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, but the local dictators remained in power and even helped to suppress the rebellions in the neighboring countries, for example in Bahrain where Saudi Arabia sent its troops. Djibouti, Somalia, Kuwait, Western Sahara, Oman and Jordan suffered least of all, although Syrian refugees crowded Jordan, and the Sultan of Oman transferred some of his powers to parliament.
Protests in Iraq and Lebanon are difficult to be separated from the long crisis and the conflicts that already existed in the countries. Although within the framework of the Greater Middle East reformation under the auspices of the US, the deterioration of conditions in these countries is directly related to the behavior of Washington.
In a secretive fashion, Sudan held a referendum on the independence of the southern part, which was immediately recognized by Western observers, and shortly thereafter the UN recognized it, adding a new state. The newly formed state in the oil-rich region, however, found that it was landlocked, and the difficulties surrounding this led to a conflict between the two parts of the once united country.
In Libya, a mixed radical Islamist campaign, with newfound monarchists and liberals, calling for Western support, started a bloody terror campaign in several cities, in the first stage. Although they were stopped immediately, the interference of the United States and NATO saw the creation of a no-fly zone over the country, authorized by the UN, which meant that the military defeat that took place later was all but inevitable.
Now, many people forget that countries where the Arab Spring began had American and multinational funds promoting democracy. Their activists, nurtured in the years preceding, were at the center of the events and gave to local activists the "color revolution" skills that had been developed in the CIS countries and the Balkans.
International speculators made haste and actively manipulated the target states' credit, stock shares, and funds. For example, in 2011, Moody International credit agency downgraded Egypt's debt, and the forecasts were changed from "stable" to "negative".
The extremists also did not waste time. In some cases, they seized power, as the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt and Libya, freeing their followers from prisons at the same time. The others began to activate well-known international structures. For example, in September 2011, one of the al-Qaeda leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated that they “support the revolutions and hope it will establish true Islam”.
In fact, all of these pseudo-revolutionary processes was the product of growth of violence in the region, setting free the collective unconscious which often took horrifying forms. Competent psychologists and researchers have repeatedly noted that social behavior changes will result from the masses being active and on the streets, especially if there were disorderly demonstrations and riots.
What has been the outcome of the past five years?
There are economic, political, social and geopolitical aspects of the Arab Spring.
According to the IMF, by the end of the 2011 the Arab Spring had already caused a $55 billion loss. In the following years, taking into account the fall of the GDP and the budget cuts in the affected states, that figure had grown significantly. Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya were the states primarily affected with losses. In October 2013, HSBC reported that the Middle East economy had lost $800 billion by the end of 2014, because of the current crisis.
Trying to reshape the region and impose Western democracy has failed. It is evident by the example of Egypt, where the military not only was able to take full control and reinforce a number of laws, but also threw into prison the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, who had assumed the presidency for a short period, and sentenced to death many activists who participated in Mubarak’s overthrow.
The United States learned its lesson in Libya too, when in Benghazi a group of al-Qaeda supporters killed the American ambassador and a marine.
As in the case of globalization, which was doubly profitable for the US and the West during the first stage, by spreading their ideas throughout the world and outsourcing their production into developing countries, the Arab Spring in the first two years looked like a new place for Washington's activities alone. Subsequently however, the regional reformations led to the growth of both anti-Americanism and opposition to the failure of the various political schemes and geopolitical routes, that had been developed in previous decades. The Suez Canal issue forced the United States and Europe to think about the consequences of any disruption to the balance of maritime trade. Meanwhile, Yemen at the Red Sea's “entrance”, is also in a very critical and important position. The passage from the Persian Gulf, in addition, is controlled by Iran.
Although the southern routes crisis increases the importance of the northern sea route, which is profitable for Russia, the Arab Spring was related to the political reality of Russia. The "White Ribbons" movement, which protested the results of parliamentary elections in Russia, and foreign backed forces, became inadvertently active in this period.
In February 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev quite clearly explained the Arab Spring's goals: "They prepared such a scenario for us before, and now they will try to put it into practice."
"They" refers to the West collectively, which includes the US State Department experts on the coups d'état tactic, NATO, companies such as Google and Facebook, Texas oil industrialists, as well as Washington's European satellites. However, Middle East puppets came to join them as partners. Not by chance, in 2011, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia would see an increase in their GDP as a result of their neighbor’s troubles. However, the process went in a completely unpredictable way, now the Gulf monarchies have particular problems.
The war in Yemen did not become a simple safari-walk for the Saudis, and the powerful Arab military coalition still cannot cope with the Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia even called for help from Colombian mercenaries, but it seems that the conflict was more complex than previously thought. Although the Saudis have accused Iran of supplying Houthis with weapons, it is not true, as Houthi controlled parts of Yemen are blocked by sea and land, and in the few cities that have working airports and landing strips, Saudi security services are on duty.
Syria is still an important node in the fight. So the Russian presence is regarded by opponents in Washington not only at the political and military level, but also in the context of ideology and religious doomsday prophesy: according to the eschatological vision of both Orthodox and Protestants, both Muslims and Jews, it is in this region where the final battle of Armageddon is to take place.