At the risk of sounding cynical, when looking at the results of the Arab Spring, one cannot help but wonder what went wrong. Tunisia produced an Islamist government, entailing the risk of trading secular dictatorship for a religious equivalent. Its Libyan counterpart is almost a non-entity, unable to rein in its militias and beset by a Gaddafi uprising in Bani Walid.
Syria is still dominated by Iran’s favoured pawn – Bashar Al-Assad. Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, meanwhile, squabble over how to punish Assad for breaking the first rule of Arab despotism: don’t be too open about it. (No paragons of virtue themselves, they must surely be glad of the distraction from their track records.)
…university socialist groups seemed to unanimously embrace it…
Amidst all this, the state of Egypt must not go overlooked. Tahrir Square was greeted at first almost like another Berlin Wall moment – indeed, university socialist groups seemed to unanimously embrace it as a metaphor for their own ‘revolutions’. And, yet, the Muslim Brotherhood is now drafting Egypt’s new constitution and holds the majority of seats in the lower house. The Al-Nour party, a Salafist group with even more pronounced totalitarian leanings, gained 127 of 498 parliamentary seats to make it the Brotherhood’s closest competitor.
This, then, is the product of a regional longing for freedom and individual rights? Maybe a revisionist attitude to Arab Spring is already in demand. What is a certainty, however, is the change wrought in turn on the regional stage.
Western leaders have finally begun showing some backbone…
As a recent article in The Telegraph pointed out, escalation over Iran’s nuclear situation – and Israel’s stance regarding it – must be considered in light of this context. Western leaders have finally begun showing some backbone over the theocracy’s aspirations but, equally, the Iranian leadership has proven itself to be particularly obstinate in recent years.
Accordingly, the long-overdue oil embargo and deployment of naval reinforcements to the Straits of Hormuz might fail to bring Tehran’s dictators to heel. If that happens, and Tel Aviv were to strike the existential threat Iran has long desired to become to Israel, the ensuing events would be heavily influenced by Arab Spring’s legacy.
…at the cheap cost of Lebanese deaths…
Consider this: if Iran found its nuclear infrastructure under attack, it has a number of choices as its response. Two of the most prominent are to close the Straits of Hormuz and bombard strategic targets across the Gulf, or else to use its Hezbollah proxies to attack Israel. The former choice entails rightful retaliation by western naval forces which Iran could scarcely hope to match – the result would be a bludgeoning if not a humiliation. The latter, however, could serve the theocrats’ purposes at the cheap cost of Lebanese deaths far, far away. To that end, Iran has provided tens of thousands of rockets to strike Israeli population centres.
…to defend an ally against the ‘offspring of pigs and monkeys’.
Israel, for its part, is determined to finally dismantle Hezbollah’s military capacity after the indecisive 2006 conflict. In other words, an attack by Hezbollah would not end with some border skirmish – a detail of critical importance post-Arab Spring. Egypt’s new Islamist parliament, presumably rife with anti-Semitism given its make-up, would likely not have Mubarak’s prudence at seeing Jews on the offensive. Their military, moreover, is already unpopular enough without urging caution with Israel.
The Gulf states, some very much pressured by popular discontent, would be equally averse to risking their positions with calls for restraint – nor are Libya and Tunisia in a position to exert such influence. Syria’s Al-Assad, of course, would jump at the chance to defuse his opposition with intervention to defend an ally against the ‘offspring of pigs and monkeys.’
…the consequences for both sides would be disastrous.
The accepted narrative of the Arab Spring is that it served to unleash a wave of constitutionalism, freedom and liberalism across the Middle East – but the clash between narrative and reality is best symbolised by a regional outlook such as the one above. Domestically, Islamists now hold sway to one degree or another from Tunis to the Sinai, beyond existing strongholds in Lebanon, Gaza and Tehran.
On the international stage, this means an expanded encirclement of the region’s one truly constitutional, free and liberal state: Israel. Some might angrily disagree with that description, ascribe it instead to places such as Egypt, or even wonder why Israel’s encirclement is all that bad. Put simply, should this serve to overly embolden Iran into undue action, the consequences for both sides would be disastrous.
At the risk of sounding cynical, when looking at the results of the Arab Spring