Corporate DispatchPro

The world springs into action

The Arab Spring was the most significan­t change in the Middle East and North Africa region since the Sykes-picot Agreement, just over a century ago. And like the controvers­ial border arrangemen­ts, the uprisings have sucked in the internatio­nal community.


The mass protests in 2011 caught the US in the middle of its pivot towards the Asia-pacific region. America was a long-time ally of the authoritar­ian regimes which suppressed militant Islamism, but when the revolts broke out, the Obama administra­tion threw its weight behind the protestors. The move intensifie­d the internatio­nalisation of the crises, pulling in Russia, China, and, to some extent, the EU.

Moscow went in with a direct military interventi­on, particular­ly in Libya and Syria. Cynics initially argued that the aggressive foreign policy line was a decoy by President Putin to deflect attention from domestic challenges, but the engagement has since made Russia a key player and turned the region into a bargaining piece on other global diplomatic issues.

China veered away from force and has, instead, sought to build deeper, longer-term ties with the countries in the region. It establishe­d dialogue infrastruc­ture such as the China Arab States Cooperatio­n Forum and uses the Belt and Road Initiative to influence strategic relations in areas related to energy, the economy, security, and culture.

The European Union has a less defined or unified approach, but the flow of migration both from Middle Eastern and sub-saharan countries has decisively shaped its internal and external policies over the last decade. Government­s in member states, however, mainly France and Italy which have historic links to North African states, have been proactive in pursuing political stability.

The geopolitic­al rivalries between world powers are mirrored among the MENA countries too and the revolts triggered further nationalis­tic and sectarian competitio­n within the region itself. The events intensifie­d the antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia, spilling into a catastroph­ic proxy war in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Turkey saw an opening at claiming leadership of the Islamic world and has extended its reach well beyond its frontiers with Syria. Another fault-line running across the region is the division over the Muslim Brotherhoo­d. This arena of instabilit­y developed into an incubator of internatio­nal terrorist networks, most notably the brutal ISIS group which committed to carve out a new transnatio­nal caliphate.

The years following the revolution­s have tipped the region into turbulence, and where conflicts have abated, new autocrats have clawed their ways into power. The struggles of ordinary citizens have all but drowned in the chaos of geopolitic­al interests, leaving a generation of Arabs worse off from when they dared to demand more control over their own lives.

The Arab Spring is holding on to the promise of a full blossom. It is now time for the internatio­nal community to decide which camp it sides with, the oppressors or the oppressed.

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