Arab Spring: Significant Current Events And Short-/Long-Term Assessment
Significant Current Events (33%)
Significant Current Event #1: Signs of Economic Collapse
A significant event that has happened in Egypt within the last three years is: its economy is showing signs of collapse. The Government of Egypt is imposing austerity measures in order to revive it (Hamed, 2019).
Clear factual examples. An example (i.e., factual evidence) supporting this claim is: the external debt of the country has more than doubled over the past five years (“Egypt Total External Debt,” n.d.). External debt is a “part of the total debt that is owed to creditors outside the country” (“Egypt Total External Debt,” n.d.). Another example (i.e., factual evidence) supporting this claim is: 60% of the population of Egypt is poor despite fiscal reforms (Hamed, 2019). Egypt’s economy is showing signs of collapse because the current administration chose to allocate most of the money to the military elite. The current administration is doing this to ensure their support for the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Mandour, 2018). This fiscal strategy disregards investment in the development of the private sector. “Military institutions have taken aid from Gulf countries and borrowed heavily from foreign institutions to expand their commercial footprint.” (Mandour, 2018).
Impact to Egypt. Egypt’s growing but struggling economy strongly impacts its citizens in a negative way. Inflation one month before the start of the Arab Spring in Egypt was 10.2%. The highest inflation during President el-Sisi’s term was 33% on July 2017. Inflation was three percent last month (‘Egypt Inflation Rate’, n.d.). Inflation raises prices in “cost of living, cost of doing business, borrowing money, mortgages,” etc. (Davis, 2019). This impacts the lower and middle class because they have difficulty buying basic necessities. Ismail Bayoumi, a 27-year-old top-earning manager, “wanted to buy a flat [and] marry the girl he loved.” He says, “The prices of everything have more than doubled since 2016, but our incomes remain the same.” He said that furnishing a flat was $5,590 but that amount is enough to buy electrical appliances (Same, 2019).
Second and third order of effects. The second order effect of this impact to Egypt is public dissent. Protests have been suppressed before but is not what was meant (Michaelson, 2019). But rather, protests that are successful to not be suppressed. This is the second order effect because successful protests have occurred during the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring occurred because many were dissatisfied with the political and economic climate. It is a new precedent in Egypt to primarily detain dissenters to prison. The third order effect is a new but unsuccessful Arab Spring will occur in Egypt. The reason why these will be unsuccessful when the previous was successful is because the previous protests, and consequently military coup, deposed a democratically elected president. The current administration has the support of the military.
Significant Current Event #2: Human Rights Violations
Another significant event is the human rights violations committed by the current administration to silence dissenters and make a potential repeat Arab Spring unsuccessful. The Arab Spring was a “series of anti-government uprisings affecting Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010” (“Arab Spring,” n.d.).
Clear factual examples. One clear example (i.e., factual evidence) supporting this claim is: the September 2019 arrest of Alaa Abdel Fattah. Fattah was a leading political activist who was a leading figure in the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt that deposed Presidents Mubarak and Morsi (“Egypt protests: Activist,” 2019). He was transferred to Tora Prison where prison officers “blindfolded him, stripped him of his clothing, beat and kicked him repeatedly, and subjected him to threats and verbal abuse.” His lawyer has been subject to similar treatment at the same prison (‘Prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah tortured’, 2019). He served five years in prison right before this arrest for “violating a law banning unauthorized protests” (Cairo, 2015). Another clear example supporting that the current administration is committing human rights violations is the disappearance turned arrest of Radwa Mohamed. Mohamed is a young woman known for making and posting videos critical of President el-Sisi, as well as, calling on Egyptians to protest (“WhereIsRadwa trends in Egypt,” 2019). The current administration has detained over 4,000 people in a crackdown on political opponents. (Soliman & Mohie, 2019).
Impact to Egypt. This other significant event impacts the country by imprisoning and torturing its citizens it sees as a potential danger to incite a populist uprising like the 2011 Arab Spring. Subjecting its citizens in this manner affects the country because it will be reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Soliman & Mohie, 2019).
Second and third order of effects. The second order effect of a UPR review is it will have minimal effect, and arrests and tortures of political dissidents will continue. This is the second order effect because the current administration has not shown signs of stopping. The current administration has made diplomatic efforts urge countries with similar issues and records to comment positively (Soliman & Mohie, 2019). The third order effect is the country will experience another Arab Spring but it will be unsuccessful. The current regime will crackdown on its political dissenters by detaining and torturing them in Tora Prison.
Impact on its Region
Egypt impacts its region. Its region is called the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The diversification of interests within the MENA region contributed to Egypt’s regional/international weakened reach (Partridge, 2018). The North Africa region shared “common interests and objectives of maintaining authoritarian rule under the appearance of democratic institution” (Partridge, 2018). These were Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, and King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia (Partridge, 2018). The diversification occurred during the Arab Spring in 2011. Ben Ali in Tunisia first fell. Next was Mubarak in Egypt. And then Gaddafi killed in Libya (Gaynor, 2011). These are three of the six countries directly affected by the Arab Spring. These uprisings forced many MENA states to reassess their domestic security, political, and economic concerns (Partridge, 2018). The uprising in Egypt specifically reshuffled its alliances. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, and Israel previously had bad relations with Egypt during Morsi’s administration but have good relations during el-Sisi’s administration. Qatar-Egypt relations have quieted. Countries with Islamists in power like Turkey and Tunisia were critical of the coup and subsequently have tense relations with the current Egypt regime. Egypt and UAE are to set up $20 billion joint investment platform. This is to invest in several sectors and assets. The UAE and its allies are doing this to help Egypt’s collapsing economy grow (Wahba, 2019).
Second and Third Order Effect of its Regional Impact
The second order effects of the diversification of interests in the MENA region is a shuffle of allies and soured bilateral relationships along secular vs. Islamist frameworks. Egypt obtained financial assistance from the UAE and its allies. The third order effect is the collapse of the economy of Egypt. This is a result of the financial assistance from these new bilateral relationships to help sustain support for el-Sisi at the expense and neglect of the lower and middle class.
First clear example. A clear example of this impact is the 2018 blockade on Qatar. Each of these countries—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt—sanctioned land, sea, and air embargos against Qatar. These countries did this because they state Qatar has supported terrorism. Each of these countries do not have common interest or objective because otherwise the embargos would not happen. Sanctioning embargos on another country is attempting to reign in that country to share interests on some level.
Second clear example. Another example of is the aforementioned UAE-Egypt $20 billion joint investment platform (Wahba, 2019). The UAE and its allies did not have good relations with the Morsi regime in Egypt. The UAE and Egypt began to have good relations once the Muslim Brotherhood-supported Morsi regime (Boukhars, et al., 2014). These unaligned and then sharing interests both of which happened after the Arab Spring, showing diversified interests during both times. Egypt will have a declining influence or involvement in the MENA region. The worsening internal political and economic sphere in Egypt has forced el-Sisi and his regime to focus domestically rather than tend to its influence elsewhere in the region. Mounting debt as a result of a collapsing economy has forced el-Sisi to seek financial relief from its allies in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
Short-/Long-Term Assessment (34%)
Short-Term Assessment (1-5 Years)
A short-term predictive assessment of Egypt in regards to political stability of his regime is he has achieved political stability by establishing a ruling coalition backed by the military. A short-term predictive assessment of Egypt in regards to the economy of Egypt is he has restored economic growth. A short-term predictive assessment of Egypt in regards to domestic socio-political security is he has brought back stability after years of unrest due to the Arab Spring. A short-term predictive assessment in regard to these domains is he will continue along this path with little deviation. He will do so to bring stability in order to not bring unrest back to the country due to grievances of low economic growth. Factual evidence that justifies this is the previous president of Egypt, Morsi, was deposed after one year taking office but current president, el-Sisi, has been in office for five years. This shows he has established legitimacy with the military. He did in fact was a military officer prior to taking office. Another factual evidence that justifies this is the annual percent GDP growth of Egypt now as to compared in previous years especially 2011. It was at 5.3% in 2018. It was at 1.8% in 2011 (‘GDP growth (annual %) – Egypt, Arab Rep,’ n.d.). This metric measurement of the economy shows he has restored economic growth. The short-term predictive assessment is that he will continue to make efforts to grow the economy of Egypt at the expense of the lower and middle class. Factual evidence that justifies this is the no to little effect of protests during his office. El-Sisi has cracked down on protesters by detaining them (Ghafar, January 19, 2018).
Long-Term Assessment (5-10 Years)
A long-term predictive assessment of Egypt those things talked about in the short-term assessment in regards to relative socio-political stability and a growing economy that neglects or does not include or prioritize the lower and middle class will continue in five to 10 years. The reader can have a relatively strong confidence in this assessment because it is not a strong deviation away from current events as well as the predicted short-term assessment on where Egypt is projected to go. The society of Egypt want stability after years of social and political unrest. They also want a growing economy but they are currently overlooked in this respect and the short-term assessment projects this will continue for the next one to five years. The reason why current events will continue into the short-term assessment and subsequently also into the long-term assessment is because el-Sisi and his regime will continue to detain and silence dissenters. This takes away information and awareness away from the public sphere into the private behind closed doors, that is, the prisons. This also takes away key personalities to incite uprisings. The economy will continue to grow, that is, the annual GDP percent will continue to grow, but the lower and middle class will remain impoverished. Unrest will grow among them but any key personalities or dissenters will be detained and silenced into the prisons. Any protests will be endured by the regime. Security forces have not used any overt violence against protesters so as to not incite further protests. They will detain any key personalities or over-the-top dissenters into the prisons. El-Sisi will continue to negotiate and keep allies and friendly bilateral relationships. This will enable the economy of Egypt to continue to grow through financial assistance from its allies. This will fund projects and sectors owned by the military elite. Supporting the military elite will give incentive for them to continue to support the current regime so as to not depose el-Sisi from his seat. These confluence of events in the long-term will bring about political leadership stability, economic growth, and socio-political stability among the population with the sacrifice and neglect of an impoverishing lower and middle class.
Second and third order effects. The second order effect of this long-term assessment is an economically-growing, stable society with an impoverished lower and middle class. The third order effect of this long-term assessment is there will be growing resentment and dissent among the lower and middle class, and the confluence of events discussed in the short-term and long-term assessment in stark comparison to the living conditions of the lower and middle class will show a society with a wide division between the rich and the poor. The rich keep getting rich and the poor remain poor. The third order effect may play out that the larger population that is the lower and middle class will attempt to unify and protest. The crux on how the events play out is how unified and wide the protests will be.
Future Intelligence Value of Egypt to the United States
The future intelligence value of the Egypt to the United States is as much what it will be as it is currently. U.S.-Egypt bilateral relations have been good. The focus of the United States for two decades has been counterterrorism, but the intelligence value can and does go beyond the realm of counterterrorism. Egypt has counterterrorism efforts on the Sinai Peninsula. The United States cannot send troops at all countries at once because it will outstretch itself. So, enabling Egypt and its other allies serves this role. Furthermore, the local security forces or services of Egypt can gather information. The United States can also leverage local speakers in Egypt to translate and communicate whether with other sources, with government officials, or with the target himself. The United States can also use Egypt to gain access due to geography or historic ties (Byman, 2017).