Seven years after the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, both commentators across the MENA region and its residents remain fairly unsatisfied with the “revolutionary changes” this movement brought them.
Seven years ago in the month of January, President Ben Ali was toppled in Tunisia. This was the first tangible result of the Arab Spring – a wave of demonstrations and protest movements that swept across the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Even though in a number of countries those led to a number of toppled governments and other notable changes, today pretty much everyone admits that the results that protesters received fail meet even the lowest of expectations they had . It’s curious that even Western countries, those that would support the demands of protesters about political liberalization and economic reforms, are equally dissatisfied with the results their received. They figured that the “revolutionary change” they were promoting could allow them to get away with a number of unwanted regimes across the region, thus getting direct access to the national wealth of regional players by infiltrating those states with obedient political puppets.
Some of the leaders of the countries affected by the so-called Arab revolution, such as the former Tunisian President Ben Ali, were military men, who would enjoy decades of unhindered power while achieving a fair amount of success in introducing change to the difficult countries they headed. Some of them called themselves Washington’s allies, like Mubarak or Saleh. Others, like Gaddafi, would be establishing relations with the West gradually, while buying off prominent political figures in the West with their unparalleled wealth. Over time, those leaders grew prepared to transfer the reins of power to those who they trusted the most, for example, to their sons. Back in the day the International Monetary Fund was praising a number of MENA states for liberal reforms they were introducing, since those would bear the promise of imminent economic growth.
Nevertheless, the West chose the “revolutionary” approach over stable relations with MENA states which resulted in people of the region being manipulated into taking their dissatisfaction to the streets. In Tunisia and Egypt, a string of protest resulted in the fall of existing regimes, with the former stopping a step away from a civil war. Yet, Tunis has been plagued by terrorist attacks ever since. Yemen wasn’t so lucky, as a civil war that began immediately after the Arab Spring was aggravated by a Saudi military aggression against it in 2015.
In the spring of 2011, NATO countries launched an operation in Libya in a bid to crush the Gaddafi regime, thus destroying the only barrier that was preventing numerous flows of African refugees from reaching Europe. The Syrian conflict, which began in the same 2011, is being carried on to this very day. Therefore, one can safely conclude that the so-called Arab Spring brought nothing but blood and suffering to the people of the region, that were blinded by the promise of Western-style democracy.
One would have a hard time searching for positive results of this protest movement wave across the MENA region, and the dire conditions some of the initial protesters were living it hasn’t improved over the last seven years. Mind you, that the demands of the protesters remained unfulfilled in Tunisia, as evidenced by a new wave of protests that took place in this country in recent weeks. Both Libya and Yemen are plunged in perpetual chaos, Syria has bled dry by a never ending war, while Egypt and Iraq can overcome the consequences of radicalization that brought terror in their home. In other states, states like Saudi Arabia, there is a acute risk of destabilization that can lead to unpredictable consequences.
While we see different results of the Arab Spring across the region, even though they are equally disheartening, it’s possible to draw a common line under all of the protests that swept the region, as it was the promise to impose American-style democracy that triggered the change, but hasn’t brought around any democratic reforms. The forces that replaced former regimes are mostly pro-West or radical in their views, and all of them far more corrupt that the regimes they relieved from power, as they have turned a blind eye to the needs of the people.
In the absence of any hope for a better social life, disheartened by unparalleled unemployment, a significant number of youngsters are turning to jihadism. But it has nothing in common with ideological believes, since this move is governed by a pragmatical desire to obtain enough financial means to survive, even if it means murdering people under goofy pretexts. Terrorist groups like ISIS are being financed by certain countries of the Arab region and the West as they have no shortage of cannon fodder to advance their political agenda through such organizations
In the wake of the Arab Spring, some monarchies of the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, also wanted to use jihadism and extremist-terrorist groups to redraw the region in accordance with its own interests, sinking its former competitors in the abyss of chaos and wars. Among its victims are Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. The West did not oppose such actions of Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, as it was all about achieving common interests through the destruction of political and military forces that could oppose the imminent plundering of regional resources that Western special interests have been dreaming of for a long while. Those interests planted their proxy forces in Saudi Arabia and Israel half a century ago to be able shape the fate of the region now.
But it has it been all for show, as the conservative states of the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, that was paying for the changes that the region underwent had little interest in the success of democratic forces anywhere. At the same time, Riyadh has been trying to limit Iran’s influence on the regional affairs, while preventing the overthrow of friendly regimes, for example, in Bahrain, while putting a foot in the door of democratic reforms in Egypt.
Just recently, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has presented some facts about the Arab Spring on the conference devoted to the history of his country. According to al-Sisi, more than 1.4 million perished in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen as a result of the attempt to introduce Western-style democracy across MENA, while another 15 million people became refugees. A large number of young people decided to leave the region in search of happiness in Europe or elsewhere. As for the economic losses from the destruction of infrastructure, they have surpassed 900 billion dollars.
So, the revolutionary sparks that transformed into fire seven years ago in some countries of the region with an extensive amount of effort made by Western countries and some conservative monarchies of the Persian Gulf, has not just shredded economy of MENA states, but brought sorrow and suffering into the lives of tens of millions of people.
Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”