Vijay Prashad, Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.

Author:Gemie, Sharif
Position:Book review

Oakland, Baltimore & Edinburgh: AK Press, 2012, 168pp. ISBN 978-1-84935-112-6

Vijay Prashad has produced an ambitious and original work: a preliminary analysis of the Arab revolutions, at a time when the processes they have initiated are clearly unfinished, and when any judgement has, of necessity, to be provisional and tentative. The work concentrates on events in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, with some reference to Bahrain, Yemen and the Gulf States and to the global context. In particular, Prashad provides an illuminating guide to American / Arab contacts in the past decades, hammering home the point that American foreign policy has consistently worked against the democratisation of the Arab world. From the 1950s to the 1970s the USA saw Iran as a bastion of conservative stability, an alternative to the Arab renaissance promised by Nasser. After 1979, the Iranian Islamic Republic appeared as the most dangerous threat to the regime, and Gulf States and American leaders co-operated to attempt to isolate and weaken the new regime. In this new context, Egypt was re-made as the guardian of conservative values: the Egyptian government was in receipt of $1.5 billion per year from the USA, while Israel received $3 billion (p.51).

The Arab Spring of 2011 threatened to transform Egypt politically. Western governments therefore needed to reassure other allies: for this reason there was little Western support for protest movements in the Gulf States (which were usually depicted as sectarian movements of Shi'a minorities). It also, argues Prashad, explains the sudden Western concern for Libya: if Egypt was to fall, then Libya could still be transformed into a...

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