Beginning in December 2010, there have been constant revolutions in the Arab world. Activists have overthrown regimes in Tunisia and Egypt; there have been major protests in Israel, Algeria, Iraq, and Morocco; and civil war has engulfed Libya. These events, which have come to be known as the Arab Spring, have caused oppressive governments to fall and have created new opportunities for American diplomacy. However, according to a recent article in the New York Times, “the tumult has also presented the United States with challenges – and worst case scenarios – that would have once been almost unimaginable.”
It is still unknown how new governments in countries such as Egypt will affect American foreign policy. However, officials in Washington are wondering “what would happen if Turkey, a NATO ally that the United States is bound by treaty to defend, sent warships to escort ships to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s blockade, as Prime Minister Erdogan has threatened to do?” Or, if Egypt responds to anti-Israeli sentiments on the streets by abrogating the Camp David peace treaty? (Egypt’s prime minister Essam Sharaf recently told a Turkish television channel that the Camp David treaty is “not a sacred thing and is always open to discussion”, raising the prospect that Egypt could break the peace treaty with Israel).
Or, what if the Muslim Brotherhood, which has had limited influence in Egypt over the years, becomes the new dominant force in Egyptian government? History has shown us that radical Islamist groups gain widespread support and popularity in unstable countries by appealing to people’s dislike for previous regimes and by providing what the government essentially cannot. So, the present instability in Egypt could be the opportunity the Brotherhood has been waiting for.
Regardless of the potential outcomes, the Arab Spring “has unleashed powerful and still unpredictable forces that the United States has only begun to grapple with and is likely to be doing so for years.” Do you think the Arab Spring will ultimately have a positive or negative impact on American diplomacy in the Arab world?