10 years after the Arab Spring, autocratic rule takes the upper hand

When 26-year-old fruit seller Mohammed Boozi set himself on fire 10 years ago this week, he could not have known that his suicide in Tunisia would burn the entire Middle East and North Africa, turning millions in demand from sclerotic crimes Will give. The area has long dominated.

A decade later, Tunisia enjoys relative security and independence, but not every other country, scorched by the Arab Spring fire, has changed instability, war, or really much. And successive revolutions failed to reward the Arabs with democracy or prosperity, the years of turmoil turned out to be a great boon for the very autocratic people who were to depose them.

“The complaints we are talking about, the complaints we had in 2010, are still in 2020,” said a Tunisian political analyst and director of Tunisia’s capital Tunis. “And so, the people who performed in 2010 are still angry.”

Those who knew Boozi said that his self-elimination is largely to resist corruption, political repression and youth unemployment, which has bothered Tunisia and the Arab world for generations under a group of ancestors of the elderly is.

Boozi’s frustrations were shared by millions upon millions, who took to the streets shouting the same demand: “People want the decline of the regime.”

Demonstrators gathered for a mass rally in Tahir Square, Cairo before the parliamentary elections on 25 November 2011. While the protests paved the way for the removal of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and the election of President Muhammad Mursi, the strong Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi came to power and helped strengthen the Middle East’s new balance of power For it was not long ago.Peter McDermid / Getty Images File

But even though the demand was the same, the results were varied: protesters overtook long-standing leaders in Egypt, Yemen and Libya. But Libya, Syria and Yemen have since been devastated by a decade of civil war, while Egypt has returned to military-backed autocracy. Only Tunisia can call itself a true democracy.

“It seemed early that close American allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE would be on the wrong side of this, as well as Israel – countries that were generally very reticent about democratic change in the Middle East,” said Shadi Hamid, a senior Partner at the Brookings Institution, Washington, referring to the United Arab Emirates.

“But there was considerable change, over time, the big winners have been, at least for now, in those countries right after the Arab Spring.”

Perhaps the most permanent “regime change” emerging from the Arab Spring has actually been a fundamental shift in attitudes and policy towards Israel, a nation that had long been an orphan to most governments and citizens of the region.

To ensure that the Gulf monarchies have been powerful for a long time. But while traditional Arab nationalist powers such as Egypt, Libya and Syria reduced internal instability, the monarchy used its growing power to repudiate one of the Arab world’s most enduring nuisances: outrage toward Israel.

Threatened by the growth of both Iran and political Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Gulf monarchies see as a threat to their power, oil-rich states found an unexpected friend in an old foe whose security needs were their own Is replaced with.

On September 28, 2011, police encountered rioters on the Qasr Al Nile Bridge in Cairo city, Egypt. Peter McDermid / Getty Images File

Throughout the decade, Iran used Shia Muslim proxy forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria and the Houthis in Yemen to expand their power throughout the region. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority states considered Iran’s move a threat to their power.

Along with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, whose appeal to both democracy and orthodox Islam appealed to millions of people across the region.

“From the point of view of those leaders, there was a deep concern outside the Arab Spring, that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood could do much to seize power, to seize public frustration,” said Sarah Feuer, a research fellow . “I think what we’ve seen over the years … in a way has a lot to do with recent normalization agreements with Israel,” referring to the Institute of National Security Studies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Tel Aviv.

Four Arab countries have normalized diplomatic relations with Israel over several months – a surprising development in an area where popular sympathy for the Palestinians runs high and where most governments have long vowed to isolate the Jewish state .

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Those successes were led by the Trump administration, whose distrust of Iran and political Islam, as well as Israel, the Gulf monarchy, and Arab ancestors such as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, led the Middle East to power Helped to solidify the new balance.

But this could mean further challenges for Biden. Some Arab autocrats and Rajputs worry that they will cancel Barack Obama’s policy of democracy champion in the Middle East.

” [Biden] This area of ​​administration is likely to reassure America’s traditional allies. “He is going to deal with a notion that Biden is essentially a third Obama word, and like all the insecurities and baggage that could stir up America’s relationships with some of these countries.”

For now, the Arab Spring sits at a familiar pace.

The protesters shouted slogans in Sidi Buzid, Tunisia, in January 2011 – a month after Mohammed Boozi set himself.Fred Dufour / AFP via Getty Image File

Libya, Syria and Yemen are plagued by internal conflicts. Egypt played with democracy for more than a year before being ousted in a coup that became popular as the country’s first freely elected president.

And Arab monarchies learned how to please their subjects from liberal handouts to accept domestic unrest in the face of demands for real freedom, suffrage or even economic opportunities for young people who had been missing from the region for a long time. Tried more.

Hamid of the Brookings Institution said, “Unfortunately the lesson of the Arab Spring is that repression works.” “The wall of fear can be rebuilt.”

But the Arab Spring is not over, even though it has calmed down. In most Arab countries, the complaints that arose – poverty, corruption, youth unemployment and political oppression – are just as bad as they were 10 years ago, if not worse.

Boozi showed that those complaints offered enough burn to set the entire Middle East on fire.

And they could do it again – if they have the right spark.

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