Tagged: Arab Awakening

My Book is Finally Out

Check my new book out New Beginning in US-Muslim Relations: President Obama and the Arab Awakening at Palgrave Macmillan official website.

Short description:

This book carries out a comparative study of the US response to popular uprisings in the Middle East as an evaluation of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy commitments. In 2009, Obama publicly pledged “a new beginning in US-Muslim relations,” causing eager expectation of a clear shift in US foreign policy after the election of the 44th president of the United States. However, the achievement of such a shift was made particularly difficult by the existence of multiple, and sometimes conflicting, US interests in the region which influenced the Obama administration’s response to the popular uprisings in five Muslim-majority countries: Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. After providing a detailed analysis of the traditional features of both US foreign policy rhetoric and practice, this book turns its focus to the Obama administration’s response to the 2011 Arab Awakening to determine whether Obama’s foreign policy has indeed brought about a new beginning in US-Muslim relations.

Enjoy your reading!

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The Arab Awakening as International Relations -my recently published book chapter.

Marc Lynch in the Washington Post has recently written an article about the Arab uprisings and international relations. I find this passage especially interesting:

The comparative politics literature on the uprisings has demonstrated real theoretical progress, sophisticated empirical analysis and useful — if too often ignored — policy advice. This comparative politics approach to the uprisings has always been problematic, though. The Arab uprisings began in transnational diffusion and ended in transnational repression and regional proxy wars. Put simply, there is not a single case in the Arab uprisings — with perhaps, as Monica Marks argues, the very partial exception of Tunisia — in which international factors were not decisive to the outcome. It is remarkably difficult to accurately explain the course of events in Egypt, Yemen or Libya without reference to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Iran. However, with but a few notable exceptions, the academic literature on the uprisings has been dominated by comparative analysis and country case studies, with international factors included as one among several variables, if at all.

The reason why I find Lynch’s words interesting is that I wrote a book chapter exactly arguing that foreign actors (international factors) played a very important role during the 2011-12 Arab Awakening. Here is an excerpt:

The stated goal underlying this edited volume is to study the complex role of popular agency and internal variables in the uprisings that broke out across the Arab world in 2011. This essay takes a complete opposite perspective and, without neglecting the importance of domestic actors, it seeks to highlight the significant role foreign actors played in the protests. In order to do that, it is first necessary to distinguish between the two main phases of each uprising: its outbreak and its outcome. With regard to the outbreak-phase, internal actors and dynamics were typically central. In fact, popular movements arose in a number of Arab countries which shared common calls for socio-economic and political change eventually aimed at achieving better living standards and a greater participation by the people in their nations’ political systems. There has been general agreement among researchers that these protest movements were the result of the spontaneous mobilization of independent internal actors predominantly interested in addressing domestic grievances. As for the outcome-phase, instead, this essay will show that external actors and dynamics were often decisive. Indeed, once the protests began, the response of foreign actors had a crucial influence on the development and outcome of the uprisings. In some cases foreign action supported popular movements and facilitated change whereas, in others, foreign action backed existing regimes and helped to maintain the status quo.

My chapter “Foreign actors: a double-edged sword” is part of an edited volume published by Palgrave Macmillan this September 2015 and edited by Professor Fawaz Gerges. If you want to know more about the chapter and the book follow this link here.  🙂

The Arab Awakening and US counterterrorism in the Greater Middle East: A missed opportunity

This is my latest contribution to the peer reviewed Journal of Terrorism Research published by Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, St Andrews University, UK.

Abstract:

In 2011, the Arab Awakening offered an opportunity to the Obama administration to advance the US interest to counter terrorism in the Greater Middle East without compromising its commitment to the promotion of democracy. As of early 2015, however, with the exception of still-hopeful Tunisia, democracy has not made any significant progress in Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, old and new regional extremist groups have become increasingly active. How did the Obama administration miss the opportunity offered by the Arab Awakening? What actions could the United States take to reverse current unfavorable trends and advance US policies of counterterrorism and democratization in the region?

Key Words:

Counterterrorism; Democracy Promotion; US Foreign Policy; Arab Awakening; The Middle East; Barack Obama
Introduction
Counterterrorism has long been a core US strategic interest in the Greater Middle East. [1] Policies of counterterrorism have sometimes conflicted with US ideal interests in the region, such as the promotion of democratic values. Highly controversial US counterterrorism practices after 9/11 are a case in point. In 2011, the Arab Awakening offered an opportunity to the Barack Obama administration to advance the US interest to counter terrorism without compromising its public commitment to democracy promotion. In fact, in 2011, popular movements across the Greater Middle East demanded reforms that were in line with US ideals and values. Meanwhile, the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the protests seemed to have fatally discredited the extremists’ argument that only violence could achieve meaningful change in the region. As of early 2015, however, with the exception of still-hopeful Tunisia, democracy has not made any significant progress in Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, old and new regional extremist groups have become increasingly active. This article analyzes how the Obama administration missed the opportunity offered by the Arab Awakening, and it suggests some actions that the United States could take to reverse current unfavorable trends and advance US policies of counterterrorism and democratization in the Greater Middle East.
To read the full article click here.
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Foreign Actors: A Double-Edged Sword Over Contentious Politics In The Middle East

A bit of self-promotion.

Foreign Actors: A Double-Edged Sword Over Contentious Politics In The Middle East is the title of a chapter that I wrote for a forthcoming book published by Palgrave Macmillan: Contentious Politics in the Middle East (September 2015).

While most chapters in this book focus on the role of popular agency in the 2011 Arab uprisings, my chapter takes an opposite perspective and, without neglecting the importance of domestic actors, it seeks to highlight the role foreign actors played in such protests. To prove this point the essay adopts a comparative approach and analyzes the specific cases of Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen. Popular movements arose in a number of Arab countries which shared common calls for socio-economic and political change eventually aimed at achieving better living standards and a greater participation by the people in their nations’ political systems. There has been general agreement that these protest movements were the result of the spontaneous mobilization of independent domestic actors predominantly interested in addressing domestic grievances. However, once the unrest began the response of foreign actors had a decisive influence on the development and outcome of such uprisings. In some cases foreign action supported popular movements and facilitated change whereas, in others, foreign action backed existing regimes and helped to maintain the status quo.

Here is the link to the book webpage. Have a look!

Democratic Autocrats?

It seems to me that more than three years of political and social upheaval, the forced removal of two presidents (Mubarak and Morsi), thousands of deaths, and continued blatant violations of human rights have done nothing to change the Obama administration’s perception of Egyptian politics.

During the early stage of the 2011 uprising, after violent clashes between demonstrators and Egyptian security forces had left hundreds injured and dozens dead, US President Obama said:

“The United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful.”

Mohammed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a prominent Egyptian opposition figure, replied that “the American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years will be the one to implement democracy.”

The other day, despite the recent release of a Human Rights Watch report suggesting that senior Egyptian officials, including Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, were implicated in what the report deemed the “widespread and systematic” killings of peaceful protesters, the US State Department reaffirmed that the Obama administration still believes that President el-Sisi is leading a democratic transition in Egypt.

Apparently, contrary to what ElBaradei and the Egyptian people have understood too well – that is that leaders who disregards human rights and democratic principles cannot be expected to lead democratic transitions – the US administration still clings to the hope that such transitions could actually occur and could even serve the US national interest.

On this last point I suggest to read this article by Michelle Dunne on “Egypt, Counterterrorism, and the Politics of Alienation”

 

Egypt: The Uprising that Failed

Last Tuesday, the New York-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on the unrest that followed the ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by the military on 3 July 2013. The 188-page report is the result of a year-long investigation by the human rights group.

Perhaps its major finding is that senior Egyptian officials, including Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, were implicated in what the report calls the “widespread and systematic” killings of protesters. HRW also found that the killings of demonstrators by the police and the armed forces “likely amounted to crimes against humanity.” The report finally argues that official statements released during the unrest makes clear that the attacks “were ordered by the government”.

The entire text of the report can be accessed here: All According to Plan

The findings of the HRW report begs the question:

Where was the international community when these “crimes against humanity” occurred?

 

A follow-up:

On 14 August 2013, after the Egyptian security forces’ deadly attacks against Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators examined in the HRW report, then-Vice President for International Affairs Mohamed ElBaradei submitted his resignation. ElBaradei explained that:

“I believed that there were acceptable peaceful alternatives to resolve our societal confrontation that could have stood a chance at achieving national reconciliation,” he added. “Violence begets violence, and mark my words, the only beneficiaries from what happened today are extremist groups.”