Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2014

From Transformation to Mediation: The Arab Spring Reframed

Richard Youngs

March 2014

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Politics in the Middle East are increasingly polarized and fragmented. The Arab Spring’s citizen-led spirit of reform is still alive, but societies are increasingly torn apart by bitter tensions between Sunni and Shia, secular liberals and Islamists, and governments and civil society. As polarization has deepened, the concern with engaging in dialogue to bridge differences has intensified. The relationship between these mediation efforts and support for systemic reform will be a pivotal factor in the Middle East’s future political trajectory.