THE ARAB SPRING
The Arab Spring began with the nature of the economic system in Middle East; in states like Egypt and Libya often what they had was a ruling family which would control the most lucrative sectors of the economy, a system known as “crony capitalism”.
When we speak about presidents in the Middle East, we are not speaking about the same types of presidents we are used to in the Western culture. Technically presidents have term limits, whereas in the Middle East he would rule for life. The economy would therefore be controlled by the inner circle of the ruling elites while the vast majority of the population are poor and continue to get poorer. Tunisia, Libya and all Arab states were a prime example of this; in Tunisia, in 2011, for the first time ever the people of the land went to streets saying they had enough of this system, protesting against this sort of presidency. The security forces surrounding the Tunisian president in this case said it was not worth defending this president anymore and caused the president to flee the country. In 2011, for first time in Middle Eastern history, people had taken the streets and forced the president who was meant to be for life to step down from his position.
When this happened in Tunisia in January 2011, it would spark a series of other protests in the region, for example, a few days later the same protest against same system spread to Egypt. Egyptians protested against the same type of economic system. In the Egyptian case, these revolutionaries were trying to get the attention of the Western media that was recording all of these events. Egypt had to be very careful about this as it had the Western media covering its events and looking to who the revolutionaries would act against. Once the president for life would step down in Egypt as well, a new crisis arose about the new transition phase which would come next, which would be lead by the military who would begin to manage the domestic and internal politics of the country.
The protest would also spread to Libya, but the response here was very different from the previous scenarios. Elements of the military would split; some would defend the leader for life known as Gheddafi, meanwhile others would follow the rebels. In the case of Libya, there was not enough people- power to overthrow the government and it therefore needed an international intervention, which occurred via the multilateral institution known as NATO. Nevertheless the key and dominant player of this conflict would remain the United States.
In 2011, the party known as the Muslim Brotherhood would win the first elections in Egypt and for a year they would rule before the military would step in. Once the military would step into the power arena it not only have overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood but began to directly control the nation. Military Commander Sisi who had led the coup became an idol, and would develop a full cult of personality with the Egyptian people.
The Syrian case in the Arab Spring was very similar to the Libyan one as it had same dynamics; some elements of the military sided with the president for life, others defected and joined the rebels. What was different in the Syrian case was that a number of foreign fighters were present in this conflict, some would go to Syria to fight along a new group that had been recently formed called the “Islamic State of Iraq” (the ISI). The Islamic State of Iraq formed in 2006, but by the time that the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the ISI expanded its battlefield operations to Syria so that after 2011, the Islamic State of Iraq became what we known today as ISIS, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”.
The Islamic State of Iraq began as the Al Qaida branch in Iraq, whereas in Syria, it expanded without the permission of Al Qaida’s central command as Al Qaida’s central command tried to reproach what had become ISIS causing it to break away from the original ISI group. As foreign fighters came to join ISIS, other foreign fighters came to fight against ISIS forces.
From this development of events one can notice the escalation of what we call the Arab Spring into the basic formation of the ISIS terrorist group we known of today. What occurred as a civil war in one Middle Eastern nation eventually spread to the whole region and caused a series of unfortunate events that lead to the creation of other nationalistic groups such as the ISI and ISIS which would now turn to Europe to fight for their religion and their beliefs.