Through the article by Attkisson and additional research, we learned that the Arab Spring was the uprising of both violent and non-violent demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa over the two-year span beginning in late 2010 through the middle of 2012. The match that lit the fire started from a single demonstration by a street vendor in Tunisia, but all stemmed primarily from a civil uprising against oppressive post-colonial regimes.
There were many countries affected both during and post with the primary countries being Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.
The only one to succeed and establish a new democracy was Tunisia with Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria all either overthrowing the government and/or starting civil war. Bahrain’s civil uprising was brought to a halt by the incumbent who put a complete stop to the resistance.
This period and the changes that occurred during it certainly led to the rise in terrorist attacks seen both during and in the time after the Arab Spring. The uncertainty in this region led to growth opportunities for terrorist organizations and the freedom to spread out. There was new space that the terrorist could operate within that wasn’t available before the Arab Spring (Attkisson). In our overview last week, we discussed how unstable or transitioning countries were often at the greatest risk of attacks with political change being a catalyst for terrorism.
Not only did they now have additional space to operate in but also the perfect time to strike as well. Terrorist organizations also deployed social media posts to help stoke the already burning flames. We have already discussed the relationship between the lack of civil liberties and increased terrorist attacks adding yet more fuel to the fire (Krueger and Laitin).
While the civilians rose up to fight the repressive regimes in the post cold war era and attempt to install a government that would support the people and provide the basic rights to the people they supposedly govern; terrorist organizations found the perfect time to strike and gain followers that might see no other alternative option to success (Cockburn). In many instances during the Arab Spring the intentions were good but with no real succession plan once those in power were ousted this gave additional latitude to those terrorist organizations who were quick to strike.
This helps to explain the early success of ISIS as a spinoff of al Qaeda as well. In many instances the ruling party was so intolerant that the Islamic State may have seemed like one of the only ways to fight. ISIS saw it as an opportunity grab and by playing off those who had just failed in their own revolution found instead a way to garner support and quickly build momentum. This combined with ISIS’s extreme use of violence likely left many in these outlying areas that were picked up by ISIS to fall in line or risk death (Attkisson).
ISIS is following Sharia rule which helps to explain their extreme use of violence with little room for negotiation to their own views. As the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” of the region and implementing Sharia rule which brings about such extreme violence they were able to quickly take over these voids created by the Arab Spring.
Unfortunately, many of the regimes that were ousted during the Arab Spring were key players in the United States counter-terrorism strategy. Based on the rise in attacks and in conjunction with the fast ascension of ISIS it is clear that at least in some part those relationships helped to minimize and deter potential attacks.
It is imperative that the US re-establish those connections and leverage existing relationships in those countries minimally affected to help deter future attacks (i.e. Saudi Arabia/Israel). Frantzman in his article in “The Hill” spoke to bringing as much stability as possible to the region. Left unchecked in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, ISIS gained a strong strategic hold within the Middle East that came with a prohibitive cost to abolish.