A street vendor, Mohamed Bouaziz protesting against Tunisian government set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, and became the catalyst for a Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring.
Tunisian revolution provoked the "domino effect" and other countries of Arab world were involved in this process.
Egypt, Yemen, Libya, as well as other countries, saw the demonstrations arising. Hosni Mubarak, the President of Egypt, was ousted; Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi died.
What were the real causes of the Arab Spring?
Further discussion requires the following questions to be considered:
- The courses of the Arab Spring
- The external factor in the Arab Spring
The Courses of the Arab Spring
Many researchers believe that the main reason of the revolutions in some Arabian countries was poverty. The definition of poverty presents it as an inability to secure basic human needs, especially in food, water, clothing, and shelter.Other aspects of poverty include also the loss of dignity and the inability to take part in the public life. Poverty can easyly mobilize citizens in some political or economic conditions what were happening in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The reasons of poverty in the Arabian countries were the imbalanced policies pursued by governments in the fields of economic development and corruption. This has led to rising rates of inflation and unemployment. In Egypt, nearly 83% of young people were unemployed, as unofficial estimates said. The region also faced the problem of rapidly growing population. According to figures released by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in 2009, the region’s population more than doubled between 1975 and 2005, to the number of 314 million people (2011).
Arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and death in custody were all characteristic of the security and enforcement agencies behavior in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. There were the internal factors of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. Economic, political and social issues contributed to the spread of radical sentiments among the population.
The external factor that influenced poverty in these countries was the geo-political environment within which the Arab states' international relations were conducted, in particular, with regards to the economy and finance.
The corrupt authoritarian regime in the most Arab countries was incapable of making foreign relations decisions that could impact their economy positively.
One more external cause was the globalization processes that affected the world. Open global society indicated the United States and the European Union as the main parts in organizing coups.
Analyzing the nature of the revolutions of 2010 – 2011, some contradictory points may be noted. Among them are the lack of clear ideology and the alternatives among the protesters. They were not trying to change the political system. It is just that there were no leaders. It is hard to explain the selectivity of the countries where revolutions took place. It is also impossible to organize the protests against government without the financial support from outside.
The External Factor in the Arab Spring
The United States of America, being a global player in the multipolar world, tried to maintain its position in some regions. Patte (2012) argues, that “a combination of military overstretches after both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, an economic slump and a revived isolationism in domestic politics were clear signals that the U.S. position was already weakening in the Middle East.” That is why the U.S. was looking for new ways to enhance its influence in the region, one of such ways was to support the revolutions in the Maghreb countries.
The official reasons for supporting Arab Spring by western countries were the spread of democratic values, human rights, the overthrow of totalitarian regimes and the fight against terrorism.
Scoblete (2011) suggests that the U.S. has much more important courses to safe control in the countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
First of all, it is the supporting Israel's military superiority. This position the U.S. would follow regardless the political situation in the region. Thus way they hoped to cooperate with new Egypt government, even by the way of bribing.
The second point was the ensuring the "free flow" of oil. The countries of Maghreb are underdeveloped, but recently oil and natural gas were found there. According to the experts of the Institute of Petroleum Geology of the Siberian Branch of RAS, oil and gas will grow in amout over the next few years. A large influx of investment in oil-field industry from western countries shows their acute interest in controlling the region.
The next point was striking of al-Qaeda. Having control in the region would help the US to mobilize some forces against al-Qaeda, which is currently the most vulnerable of America's interests, since weaker governments and reformed intelligence services might have qualms about torturing people on America's behalf or simply be overwhelmed with other responsibilities to cater to Washington's requests.
Turning to individual cases, the United States establish good relationships with new governments in Egypt and Tunisia. It is very important for Egypt and Tunisia to cooperate on economic and defense matters. The interests of both countries lie to the West. Both states focus now on dealing with economic problems that they have after revolution.
Talking about Libya, it should be noted that the Libyans have little experience with democracy, and Qadhafi's departure may not necessarily lead to the creation of a democratic government. That is why the United States should support the expected UN, European, and Arab role in rebuilding Libya.
Yemen is a country which emphatically needs help from the international community. Yemen could drift into anarchy and be divided into autonomous political entities. The major threat to U.S. interest could be the influence of al-Qaeda on some of these entities.
Arab Spring is a series of mass street protests, revolutions and internal armed conflicts in several Arab countries of North Africa that began in late 2010 in Tunisia and spread to another countries. There were social, political, economic globalization reasons for this large-scale process. One of the main causes is poverty in Arab countries which can be classified into external and internal factors. Inflation and unemployment refer to internal causes. The primary external cause is the geo-political environment within which the Arab states' international relations are conducted.