Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2011

Spring Tide: Will the Arab risings yield democracy, dictatorship or disorder?

May 2011

Economist Intelligence Unit


The wave of political activism that started in southern Tunisia in December 2010 has now reached all parts of the Arab world, from Morocco in the west to Oman in the east. The fate of these popular uprisings remains in the balance, but it is already clear that they have produced the most dramatic changes in the region since the end of the colonial era in the middle of the 20th century. The “Arab Spring”, however, is a seasonal misnomer. Since the removal of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators in January and February 2011, protest movements have stirred but have not flowered. Uprisings in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria have all led to military confrontations of varying intensity, but the regimes are still in place (although the grip of the rulers in Libya and Yemen is tenuous). In Libya, only NATO intervention has prevented Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s regime from reimposing its writ over the entire country following a rebellion in February in the eastern city of Benghazi. Bahrain’s uprising has been stamped out with Saudi assistance, and the efforts of a more liberal wing of the royal family to foster a constitutional monarchy disowned. The Syrian regime is mercilessly crushing a popular uprising, and digging in for prolonged resistance to Western diplomatic and economic pressure.