Who are the biggest losers and winners coming out of the Arab Spring?
The biggest loser, hands down, is Israel, followed closely by the United States. Iran is third. But there are also clear winners – and winning opportunities still for the US and Israel, if they adjust.
Who are the winners and losers in the dramatic and evolving turmoil in the Middle East? For the citizens of the Arab world, the way ahead may yet be rough and unpredictable, but events represent a major net gain in breaking away from the frozen, sterile, and crushing old orders.Skip to next paragraph
But with the breakup of the old Middle East system on the international level, who wins and who loses?
The biggest single loser, hands down, is Israel. Many of the old dictators propped up by US money and political support to keep the lid on the region are now falling, with more to go over time – most likely in Bahrain, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia. Israel can no longer count on a free ride in pursuing its policies to preserve occupation indefinitely.
No doubt, if Bashar al-Assad in Syria bites the dust, as seems likely, a leading figure hostile to Israel will vanish. But the history of Syria offers not a shred of reason to believe that a new Sunni nationalist regime in Damascus, bolstered by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, will view Israel with any greater indulgence than Mr. Assad. In fact, the emergence of popular forces in almost any Arab state guarantees tougher policies toward Israel in opposing its preservation of the Palestinian status quo – the preeminent symbol of injustice in the eyes of all Muslims.
This is not to say that the slow spread of democracies might not in some distant future be good for Israel. But it can be good only for an Israel that moves sharply away from its extreme right-wing and apartheid policies and toward a more generous and open political and social order that liberates the Palestinians. Such an event does not remotely appear on the Israeli political horizon right now.
The second-biggest loser is the United States. The reasons are simple: It is becoming ever more difficult for Washington to call the shots as Arab populations grow empowered to elect their own leaders. And for now, popular views reflect the anger and frustration of decades – even centuries – against Western imperial control, now topped off by a decade of American wars on Muslim soil in a quixotic search for a military solution to anti-Western terrorism.
Arab publics in the near term will not elect pro-American leaders; indeed, Islamists are the most likely beneficiaries of change, along with nationalists. America is furthermore seen as a power in decline with shrinking ability to control events. As with Israel, any good news for the US in the changing Arab world can come only when Washington abandons its endless attempts to intervene to shape regional events and local politics to its own liking, and against the wishes of most of the citizens of the region.
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