Middle East

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Role of the Non-Arab States post-Arab Spring

Name: Chua Chee Keong
Matriculation Number: A0085762W
Module: PS2255
Discussion Group: E2
Question Number: Q4

One cannot help but notice the cognitive bias in Western views of the Arab Spring. The apparent focus has been on clamours for democracy and how the democratic ethos has finally permeated a hitherto impenetrable region. Even President Barack Obama, in his speech before congress, lauded the efforts of the Arabs in advocating democracy in their respective countries (The White House, 2011). It is undeniable that the central tenet of the Arab Spring has been the desire to eradicate despotic regimes and to replace them with legitimate governments, backed by free and fair elections and which respects citizens’ rights and freedom- lynchpins of democracy. However, insufficient attention has been accrued towards the rise of Political Islam and the underlying role of Islamic groups in bringing out the Arab Spring. Those who acknowledged such a fact only do so with trepidation, worried more about how Iranian-style theocracy might be instituted throughout the Arab world than how religion can coexist effectively with democracy (Cline 2013). As William Aviles (2009) posited, “Receptivity towards democracy in Arab and Muslim societies is often accompanied by deeply held religious beliefs”. In the Arab world, most Muslims express their strong sense of religiosity and view the Shari’a law as the basis of the law of the land (Pew Global Survey 2010). Hence, there is a need to search for a model system which accommodates religious and democratic ideologies amicably. It is through such a context where the role of the non- Arab States, namely Turkey, Iran and Israel becomes salient. Each of these countries’ political system represents a prototype which can be emulated or adapted within the Arab context. Some may argue that Israel does not have a predominant Muslim population and thus, does not qualify as a suitable model. Nonetheless, the stability and viability of Israel’s democratic institutions is worth exploring. Despite the turbulence which characterised their history, Israel has never suffered intervals of non-democratic governance (Foreign Policy 2012). This allows the Arabs to draw lessons upon how the concept of democracy should be handled. I am not claiming that these prototypes can be transplanted directly into the Arab context. To be certain, each of these systems has their respective flaws and limitations. Nevertheless, their ability to incorporate democracy successfully into a region mired with ethnoreligious conflicts underscores their importance.

The term post- Arab Spring needs to be reappraised. Undoubtedly, the height of the Arab Spring, characterised by large scale revolts and protests around the Arab World that culminated in the fall of authoritarian regimes has subsided. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding the future of the Arab countries still persists, demonstrating that the episode is far from over (Davis 2011). Given the geographical proximity of the aforementioned non-Arab states to the Arab world, the current turmoil and tumult in the latter may present vital opportunities or immense challenges to the former’s geopolitical aims. This may compel these states to act in certain ways that may directly affect the democratization process in the Arab world, or indirectly influence the larger stability of the region post Arab-Spring. Therefore, in this essay, I will argue that the non-Arab states play both a passive and active role in the period post-Arab Spring. By passive, I mean that their political systems could be utilised as viable models for the Arab countries in their reconstruction process. By active, I mean that these countries may unilaterally extend political overtures which will alter the dynamics of the region’s politics . Both roles will intertwine to shape the...
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