The Middle East is an area of the world that has always been prone to uprisings and political turmoil, but that can be said of almost any area of the world given a specific time period. In the Arab world, there has been a lot of political change over the last century because the major players have changed so many times. Originally, it was the British who held a great deal of the territory as a part of their extensive empire, but all of that land was returned after the Second World War. Then the governments were largely puppets of Western democracies like those in Egypt and Iran. But, the new trend (happening at least since the Shah was deposed) is that Islamist religious leaders are the true theocratic rulers of countries with a de facto head who is the face of the nation, but has little true power (as is the case in Iran presently). Recently, many Middle Eastern governments went through another round of changes that has rocked the world with its suddenness and furor. Arab peoples in many of the region's nations have risen up against their oppressive governments and have either ousted them, or, at the very least, brought them to task for their past abuses.
As people in other nations watched, especially those in the Western world, there were mixed reactions regarding the precarious outcomes. The United States has been one of the most hated governments among Middle Easterners for some time, so it is no surprise that the U.S. government would react with grave concern as the Middle Eastern (also including parts of Northern Africa) political map was rearranged. Because many of the deposed leaders had friendly relations with the U.S., even as the people were oppressed by the West-approved governments, it seemed like America was included in the downfall of these governments. Because of U.S. involvement with some of the Middle Eastern governments, there was a great deal of tension in Washington, and it is still difficult to say what relations will be like going forward. The Arab Spring hurt the U.S. And its Middle Eastern allies such as Jordan in significant ways. Intelligence gathering and economics are some of the areas affected by these coups, but there could be even more dire consequences for the countries still extant as friends of the West and for Western countries, particularly the U.S., as the dust clears in the region. Looking particularly at Jordan, the question becomes, can Western-sympathetic Middle Eastern nations continue to survive in lieu of what happened during the Arab Spring uprisings? This research paper takes a look at the antecedents of the uprisings as they relate to the question, and presents research regarding how economies and general world safety enterprises (such as intelligence gathering) have been effected by the events of the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring was an event that seemed to take many by surprise, especially those governments that were most intimately involved, but the uprisings were not just spontaneous acts of defiance. The people in these countries had issues with their governments long before they took action against them starting in late 2010. Events that were within the government's ability to control had been neglected for years before the people finally had enough.
The first domino to fall was Tunisia and its leader, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. One writer described Tunisia as "The East Germany of Northern Africa" (Parsons). The regime was very dictatorial and controlling. The people of Tunisia had lived in a veritable police state for several decades because the leader of the country refused to be voted out of office. As with many of the Arab nations involved in the Arab Spring uprisings, Tunisia was supposedly a democratic nation that had free elections and some amount of freedoms for its people. However, this now seems to have just been window dressing meant to gain aid from Western nations that coveted allies in the Arab countries. The blinders that the U.S. And other countries wore were not issued to the people of Tunisia. While their leaders benefitted from positive relationships with Western democracies, they lived in poverty and were under constant watch.
Tunisia was the country that prompted much of the action that was to come because the people of these countries were necessarily worried about the outcomes of popular revolt. The leaders of the resistance movements were under no illusions that there would be peaceful turnovers of power. It was expected that the state controlled media and military would be firmly in the pocket of leaders, and that it would be very difficult to exact the change that they sought. Men like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt had been in power for more than 30 years and they were reluctant to relinquish the power and prestige that had benefitted them so greatly. Thus, it would have seemed that the uprisings would have been somewhat tentative, but they were not. In Tunisia, it took only a very short time before the President stepped down, and though it took longer for Mubarak to leave, he did acquiesce with very little resistance. It was more than any of the leaders of resistance movements could have hoped for, and protesters in other countries took note of the freedom that had been gifted to the people of these two countries.
Of course, freedom came at a price, even from the initial participants of the Spring, but a much greater price was required of later entrants into the freedom foray. Libya, had been under the control of Muammar Gaddafi for more than a generation. He had been the bane of the U.S. At one time, but since the 1980's had become, if not an ally, at least much less of a problem (Hastings). However, his people were enflamed by what had happened on both their East and West borders and wanted the regime change they had seen in both Tunisia and Egypt. The problem was that Gaddafi was not willing to relinquish his power as easily. It took more than nine months for allied in-country rebel and NATO forces to stop Gaddafi, but the problem did not end with the death of the country's former leader. According to Max Hastings of the London Daily Mail
"It is extraordinarily difficult for a country with no democratic traditions and institutions, riven by tribal rivalries, to forge a new government and adopt peaceful co-existence. Every major town has its own rebel brigade, armed to the teeth, determined to keep its guns in its hands until the future becomes clear."
It seems that this is the issue that is plaguing many of the Western governments that are watching events that continue to unfold. What type of governments are replacing the ones that have been overthrown?
Another country that has been in civil war for more than a year now is Syria. The leader, Bashar Assad, has not agreed to any concessions despite the censure he has received from the Western nations that once supported him. The internal turmoil has meant the deaths of many of the dissidents, and it does not seem like there is to be any quick resolution (Platt).
Besides the major conflicts that have taken place there have been more minor ones in Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan, but these have not risen to the level of any of the others. There seems to be two reasons why these conflicts were initiated and continue. First, the primary architects of some of the turmoil is a group called the Muslim Brotherhood (de Borchgrave). This is a little known group of sometimes radical Islamists who are calling for the end of Western influence in the countries of Northern African and the Middle East. The belief is that the leaders of these Middle East/North Africa (MENA) nations think that they can do what they want as long as they have the financial backing of the Western world. Unfortunately, this has meant that the people are often neglected as the leaders amass great amounts of wealth. Even when the governments are supposedly democratic, they turn into dictatorships that give lip service to democratic ideals. The other issue is that among the citizens of these nations, there is very high unemployment. "MENA suffers from the world's highest jobless rates & #8230; unemployment remains largely a "youth phenomenon" -- reported at 40% in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia and nearly 60% in Syria and Egypt -- hence the potential for further social tensions" (Siddiqi & Smith).It would seem that nations that are as oil rich as many of the MENA nations are would have low unemployment, or at the very least programs adequate to take care of the citizens. But this has not been the case. One of the issues for the Western nations is that they have been blamed for allowing this to happen as long as they received the oil and regional influence they required. Aside from the economic advantages that the…