Arab Spring Essay

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Middle east Policy, Vol. XiX, No. 3, Fall 2012 The ArAb Spring: iTS geoSTrATegic SignificAnce Mohammed Ayoob Dr. Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University and an adjunct scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. T he democratic uprisings and consequent turmoil in the Arab world during the last 18 months have had significant impact on the geostrategic situation in the Middle East as well as on the policies of major regional and global powers. As the upheavals continue to unfold, especially in strategically important countries such as Syria and Bahrain, they will continue to have a major impact on intraregional politics as well as great-power interests. THE SYRIAN IMBROGLIO Syria has for many decades been the bellwether of Arab politics, especially in times of intense ideological competition. This is the consequence of its strategic location between the two traditional centers of Arab power, Egypt and Iraq, and the perception that it is the heartland of Arab nationalism. In much of the twentieth century, Syria was seen as the ultimate prize for contending trends and powers; whichever ideological or political trend emerged victorious there came to dominate, more often than not, the Arab political scene. This was true in the 1950s and 1960s during the time of intense competition, indeed © 2012, The Author a cold war, between “revolutionary” military regimes espousing the cause of Arab nationalism and conservative monarchies determined to hold on to their power and privilege.1 And as Curtis Ryan points out with reference to the current situation, “Once again, regional politics shows many signs of an Arab cold war and, once again, that broader conflict is manifesting itself in a struggle for Syria.”2 However, this time around, non-Arab Iran is a leading protagonist in the new

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