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The ‘Arab Spring’ Backfires – OpEd


By Boris Volkhonsky

A year after the triumph of the Egyptian revolution, events surrounding it have taken a U-turn. The U.S. which heartily supported the “Arab Spring”, notwithstanding its side-effects, like the ascent to power of Islamist forces, has now found itself in a dispute with the new leaders of Egypt.

The Egyptian authorities have put more than 40 workers of non-governmental organizations, including 19 Americans on trial. Among those barred from leaving Egypt is Sam LaHood, the country director of the International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

In response, the U.S. Congress and the White House have warned Egypt that the crackdown on non-governmental groups could threaten its $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

As reported by Reuters, an Egyptian military delegation that was visiting Washington for talks with the U.S. authorities abruptly cancelled its meeting with U.S. lawmakers and returned to Cairo. No reason for the cancellation was given neither by the delegation, nor by the Egyptian Embassy in Washington.

This led to a further deterioration of the situation. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Aid Subcommittee, suggested that he would not favor continuing U.S. military aid to Egypt, if it continued its crackdown on local and U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups.

“If they think I took a strong stand this year – if things don’t improve, next year will be a lot worse,” he said.

Now, it would be advisable to look at the situation within the general framework of the “Arab Spring” and its aftereffects in the Middle East and North Africa. The “Twitter Revolutions” in Tunisia and Egypt started with full support of the U.S., and the NGOs were seen as a useful tool in mobilizing the “pro-democracy” forces that eventually overthrew the “oppressive” regimes. It did not work quite as smoothly in Libya, where an open military aggression was required in order to bring the light of democracy to the “new-caught, sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child.”

The results in Libya (apart from the devastation of the country and the brutal killing of its former leader) are yet to be seen. But the results in Tunisia and Egypt where events were not as tragic as in Libya, can hardly be called satisfactory for the NGO-bred foreign instigators of the revolutions. The ultimate power came into the hands of the Islamists, including the so much feared “Muslim Brotherhood”. The latest events at a Port Said football stadium, and consecutive violence that erupted in the streets, only show, that it is not so easy to put back the genie once it’s let out of the bottle.

And finally (or, is it not final yet?) the Egyptian rulers cracked down on the NGOs, including the American International Republican and National Democratic Institutes. Egyptian prosecutors said they were acting on evidence suggesting some groups were violating Egyptian laws. Quite obviously, in the West the crackdown was regarded as an attack on free speech and an attempt by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to silence critics of its attempt to put down ongoing street protests.

It was noted a long time ago, that the first thing most revolutions do is – they devour their own children (as well as their parents). Could one have expected events in Egypt to have taken another course?

So, the question is, whether it was worth instigating a revolution if the ones who did it, fell first prey of their own creature?

But the West does not seem to be learning from its own mistakes. Turmoil in Libya and Egypt is far from over, but the West is greedily eyeing Syria as its next playground, without even bothering who might replace the “oppressive al-Assad regime” and wouldn’t a revolution there mean a total war of everyone against all with all kinds of atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities.

But isn’t it high time to stop and look at the events in Egypt in order not to repeat the mistakes made there? Indeed, Senator Leahy’s phrase that “next year will be a lot worse” sounds rather ominous in this context.

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

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VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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