Images of popular protests that recall the revolutionary movement of 2011 have dominated news from the Arabic-speaking world for months. Uprisings began in Sudan on 19 December and in Algeria with the marches of Friday 22 February. They revived memories of the huge, peaceful demonstrations early in the Arab Spring that shook Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
Commentators have been more cautious this time, asking questions rather than commenting directly, mindful of the bitter disappointment that followed their initial euphoria over the Arab Spring. The repression of the 2011 uprising in Bahrain, crushed after only a few weeks with the help of the other oil monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), could have been the exception, given the unique characteristics of that club of states. But two years later the region entered a counter-revolutionary phase, with a new chain reaction going the other way.
Bashar al-Assad launched a new offensive in Syria in spring 2013 with the help of Iran and its regional allies. Then came the army-backed establishment of a repressive regime in Egypt, and the return to power of members of Tunisia’s ousted government; in Cairo and Tunis, forces linked to the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the initial revolutionary impetus. Emboldened by 2013’s developments, remnants of the former regimes in Libya and Yemen formed opportunistic alliances with groups that had jumped on the bandwagon of the revolution and shared their hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their attempts to take power by force ended in civil war. Enthusiasm gave way to melancholy in the ‘Arab Winter’ as the totalitarian terrorist enterprise ISIS gained a foothold. [Continue reading…]