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International Influence of the Arab Spring[edit]

International influence in the Arab Spring – a sequence of revolutions in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010 – is the way in which states outside of the Middle East affected the conflict.[1] The extent of this influence is contested among scholars in the field, and thus far, a few studies have been done concerning the role of the United States, Europe, and China. Although the Arab Spring officially began in Tunisia, with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, underlying conditions (domestically and internationally) played a role in the subsequent turn of events. At this point, there are two schools of thought. Some argue international players had a significant role in driving the revolution, and others argue they had minimal influence.

General Influence[edit]

International partnerships have historically existed between the West and the Arab world for a number of reasons, including economic, political, and social interests. The United States provides a clear example of this, as they forged a US-Arab alliance following their successful efforts to intervene, and liberate Kuwait in the 1990s.[2] Other countries have followed suit in forming relationships for a number of different reasons. However, some relationships that have existed in years past have been declining, even before the Arab Spring began. For the United States, relationships began to deteriorate following the terrorism attacks of September 11. For the European Union, influence in the Arab region has been on a slow decline for about two decades.[2][3][4] For this reason, some scholars support the assertion that the Arab revolts were largely a product of internal efforts.[3] On the contrary, some experts argue that the foreign policy of powerful states like United States and the European Union shaped the conflict, in addition to decisions for intervention that were made as the revolution played out. As this is such a current event, further research must be done for conclusive results on the international influence in the Arab Spring.



  Government overthrown   Civil war   Sustained civil disorder and governmental changes   Protests and governmental changes
  Major protests   Minor protests

International Actors[edit]

Europe[edit]

The role of the European Union is heavily contested. For two decades before the revolutions, the EU promoted policies of democracy and economic prosperity in the Mediterranean.[5] They have claimed an interest in promoting human rights, democracy, and stability in the region. Relationships were established through the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) and other organizations, that sought to create a shared "geopolitical space."[5] While some scholars argue a declining presence in the Arab world, others assert that a weak and exploitative promotion of democracy in the region catalyzed the revolts.[5] Rosemary Hollis, a professor in the field, ultimately concludes that the EU's promotion of democracy was a shallow façade for the EU to further their own economic and national security interests, and that this harmful influence spurred the beginnings of the Arab Spring.

Others have said that the Arab Spring was a transformation, where the alliance between the West (European Union, and the United States) and Arab states was severely weakened.[2] Roberto Aliboni, an Italian researcher, argues that the Arab Spring occurred largely because the West failed to intervene. In contrast, the situation in Libya represents a specific case of NATO intervention in ousting Qaddafi.[6] Regardless of how this intervention may have affected Libya's revolution, NATO still played a role that shaped the outcome to some extent. The situation between NATO and Libya has been studied by multiple scholars. Some believe Libya would have been slower to oust Qaddafi without Europe's intervention, and others argue the future of Libya will be decided by Libyans alone, regardless of Europe's role.[3]

United States[edit]

The United States has a history of intervention in the Arab world. Since the 1990s, they have extended funding for democracy to a few states, one of them being Egypt.[4] After 9/11, democracy promotion was elevated to a national security priority; however, Egypt resisted U.S. assistance.[4] Snider and Faris, two scholars in the field, argue that U.S. funding helped empower challengers to the regime. Despite this, revolution ultimately arose due to internal changes in print-journalism and strong resistance organizations like Kefaya, meaning "enough" in Egyptian Arabic.[4]

The United States has also been known to support the rulers that were overthrown throughout the revolution. However, they stopped backing the despotic dictators when the Arab Spring began.[6] Although the U.S. played a role in shaping the Arab world before the conflict, this influence was arguably diminished after the revolutions began.[6] It is questionable whether this represents a temporary loss of U.S. prestige, or a more permanent feature of the United State's relationship with the Arab world.[6]

China[edit]

China unintentionally played a role in the Arab Spring due to the effects of a winter wheat crop failure and a massive Chinese drought that occurred in January 2011. This massive drought led the Chinese to buy wheat on the international market, henceforth doubling prices and leading to civil unrest in Egypt – the world’s largest wheat importer. Egypt’s geography and population size have led to their dependence on international wheat imports. China’s domestic efforts to alleviate the drought had serious repercussions in Egypt, where food riots spurred further civil unrest. These food riots weakened government legitimacy and destabilized the country. This served as a stepping-stone for subsequent civil unrest in Egypt.[7] Because the Arab Spring only occurred about two years ago, little research has been done dealing with China's direct role in the conflict.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring
  2. ^ a b c Aliboni, R. (2012.) The international dimension of the Arab Spring. The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs. 46(4), 5-9
  3. ^ a b c Perthes, V. (2011.) Europe and the Arab Spring. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. 53(6), 73-84
  4. ^ a b c d Snider, E. A., Faris D. M., (2011.) The Arab Spring: US democracy promotion in Egypt. Middle East Policy. 18(3), 49-62.
  5. ^ a b c Hollis, R. (2012.) No friend of democratization: Europe's role in the genesis of the ‘Arab Spring’. International Affairs, 88, 81-94.
  6. ^ a b c d Jones, P. (2012.) The Arab Spring: opportunities and implications. International Journal, 67, 447-463.
  7. ^ Sternberg, T. (2012.) Chinese drought, bread and the Arab Spring. Applied Geography. 34, 519-524.

References[edit]

  • Aliboni, R. (2012.) The international dimension of the Arab Spring. The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs. 46(4), 5-9.
  • Hollis, R. (2012.) No friend of democratization: Europe's role in the genesis of the ‘Arab Spring’. International Affairs, 88, 81-94.
  • Jones, P. (2012.) The Arab Spring: opportunities and implications. International Journal, 67, 447-463.
  • Snider, E. A., Faris D. M., (2011.) The Arab Spring: US democracy promotion in Egypt. Middle East Policy. 18(3), 49-62.
  • Sternberg, T. (2012.) Chinese drought, bread and the Arab Spring. Applied Geography. 34, 519-524.
  • Perthes, V. (2011.) Europe and the Arab Spring. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. 53(6), 73-84.