HBO’s world famous TV series “Game of thrones” first TV episode, aired in 2011. This was the time when at least Arabians were expecting to have first of its kind renaissance and hoping to have a feel of liberalism, democracy and progressiveness (I loved to watch time and gain the series). Its presence was felt everywhere from West Asia to North Africa, long standing governments started to be fall and a hope seems feasible.
It all started when in early 2011, The successful uprising in Tunisia against former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries and the phenomena as named by western media (HBO belongs from western only) as “Arab Spring” .
Analysts and also the people were looking it as similar to the disruption happened in Eastern Europe right after the fall of the wall of Berlin. It was expected that The story of turmoil will repeat its history, once again, as it did in Eastern Europe in 1989, when seemingly impregnable Communist regimes began falling down under pressure from mass popular protests in a domino effect and in a highly short period of time, ultimately results into the Communist bloc converted the democratic political systems with a market economy.
It’s around six years since the start of Arab Spring (Game of thrones has completed six season during the time), and the ongoing happening in the region is, interestingly to a great extent, is similar to what it has been shown that TV series, political intervention, violence, killings, anger at the brutality, fall and rise of new rulers and all conspiracy against and for them and all on the name of Majesty or on the name of justice.
Six years and story didn’t changed, except two three main characters (Rulers) who got ended. As it was expected earlier that decades of authoritarian regimes could be easily reversed and replaced with stable democratic systems across the region, it has also disappointed those hoping that the removal of corrupt rulers would translate into an instant improvement in living standards and the people will feel the wind of spring, wind of freedom like the rest of western world is enjoying. Unfortunately, those were seeing the incidents of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen will work as a catalyst, for them the realty is still that the chronic instability in countries undergoing political transitions, have put additional strain on struggling local economies, and deep divisions have emerged between the Islamists and Liberal Arabs.
While Brexit and the U.S. election dominated headlines in 2016, the continent witnessed major challenges of its own hunger, health, and refugees and economic collapses. Conflict continued to make news, with the continuation of people trafficking across the Mediterranean and violence in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen and South Sudan bubbling over.
Oil reach countries are registering the growth which is the weakest pace in over two decades. How will the Arab’s oil economy fare after OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed late last year to cut supply in an attempt to boost prices, answer is not clear and any guess will be quite skeptical. One thing is sure the cut will not have much impact, at least with entry of Iran in Global Supply. I have an example of OPEC-member Angola, which has previously ignored cuts. In fact hardened oil prices would help producers located in other regions Latin America and small African countries near about of the continent including Chad, Gabon and Nigeria.
Arab’s gradual shift away from long-term, strongman leaders is gathering pace but only in some countries. Supporter of “Spring Movement” earlier witnessed Mexican waves in the headlines of the transition of power are facing reality now, which is not as sweet as the winter is. Strong Ruler now refusing to accept/concede defeat to his rival, and all diplomatic and military intervention resulting in disruption only.
The US is a major player here and directly and indirectly is involved in all sphere of Arabs. Unfortunately recently elected USA President Donald Trump have not shown his trump card and seems largely been fired off in the direction of China with his widely debated protectionist rhetoric theory.
But, his viewpoint could spell bad news for across the globe and also for Arab. Referring a quote from world Bank report which says that “a slowdown in global trade … could hurt (emerging markets) demand for Africa’s export commodities including oil.”
Intervention of Russia and USA has makes it happened to Libya and to Syria, and catalyze the whole movement to further discourages any kind of rebellion. Remembering a news anchor what she was saying, “There is no stomach for it. Extremism is a reality and cannot easily be expelled. The government and the protestors are involved into the ferocious violence. Some become friend and some allies of AlQaeda and/or ISIS.”
For example in Algeria, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and became the core of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The AQIM operates in the Sahara, across terrain that cuts through southern Algeria to link Libya to Mali. Old veterans of the “black decade” in Algeria and of the Afghan wars—such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zeid—led the AQIM to victory in northern Mali and then led attacks on Algerian oil installations. Their presence dampens any possibility for protests in Algeria. And this not an exception but a commonality only.
The shadow of the “black decade” is still a reality in the region, and for optimists, instead of “Arab spring” “winter is coming” is seeming to be more real.
-Sr Company Secretary & Commentator on Global Market
Photo credit: media.npr.org