The CSS Blog Network

The Revolution Will be Televised (Tweeted and Streamed)

Cleaning up after the protests, but what then? photo: sierragoddess/flickr

As new “days of rage” are announced across the Middle East and as the ‘Jasmine revolution’ spreads across the Maghreb and some of the most entrenched autocracies in the Middle East and Arabian peninsula, the word ‘revolution’ seems to be on everyone’s lips. Although the rest of the world, Europe included, has seen such people power-driven revolutions in the last years, this latest wave really caught the world by surprise.

How is it that decades of authoritarian oppression finally resulted in largely peaceful uprisings that are spreading like wildfire across the region? Did it come as a result of the Bush era’s democracy promotion ‘campaign’, as some right wing American politicians have argued (with just a little congratulatory tap on their own back)? Or should social media tools like Twitter and Facebook be seen as the true champions of this new media-driven process? Perhaps Julian Assange and WikiLeaks should get credit as revelations of the extravagant lifestyle of Tunisia’s first couple drove angry protesters to the streets in the very early stages of this collective Arab revolt against oppression?

Clearly the latter two both played into the complex equation that toppled the regimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak and has put many more regional despots under significant pressure to reform. Ultimately though the credit, and indeed responsibility as these revolutions turn into democracy-building exercises, lies with the people and the leaders of the opposition movements who were brave, daring and ingenious in the timing of the protests and in the way social media platforms and other tools from the handbook of peaceful revolutions were used to an impressive effect. The largely peaceful nature of these infectious uprisings has garnered a lot of praise from around the world, and rightly so. The jubilation on the streets of Tunis and Cairo was an inspiring sight when streamed on iPhones and computer screens around the world.

This is a new age of revolutions against oppression and a new age for global solidarity. The outcome of these revolutions may not yet be known, but there is no doubt that these past weeks have changed Arab and indeed world history for good.

Here are a few select publications from our Digital Library that provide context to these momentous events:

  • From Dictatorship to Democracy, a seminal handbook by Gene Sharp on how to conduct nonviolent resistance against autocracies and a manual that many Egyptian protest leaders cited as an inspiration. » More

Christians in the Middle East

Domes of St. Mark Church in Cairo, Egypt, courtesy of Bakar_88

The situation for Christians in the Middle East is difficult and increasingly precarious. From Morocco to Egypt and Iraq, they have come under pressure either from governments or from Islamic groups. The latest dramatic event happened this weekend, when a Christian church was attacked in Iraq by a group linked to al-Qaida, killing at least 50 people.

It’s worth reviewing the situation in some of the Middle Eastern states with sizable and historical Christian communities: » More

How United Is the Arab Front?

Arab stone design, courtesy of Eusebius@Commons/flickr

The Arab community has always publicly supported its Muslim counterparts. As a result there is an alliance among these states in opposition to Israel and the occupation of Palestine. However, it appears that behind the facade of Arab unity lies a game of dirty politics, where each state acts in self-interest often in contrast to the projected image of unity and loyalty.

A recent article by The Times publicized Saudi Arabia’s green light to Israel to use its air space to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.  This is surprising as it pits Muslim states against each other openly and brings the reality of Arab loyalty into question.

In order to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, Israel has the choice of three routes. The northern route involves passing the Syrian-Turkish border. The central route goes over Jordan and Iraq, while the third southern route goes through Saudi Arabia and Iraq or Kuwait. So let’s assess where these Middle Eastern states stand. » More

ISN Weekly Theme: The Saudi Touch

US Army chaplain prays toward Mecca, Saudi Arabia, photo: Lance Cheung/flickr

This week the ISN takes a closer look at the enormous challenges facing Saudi Arabia on both its domestic and foreign policy fronts. The world is watching to see how the Middle East’s largest country will address its internal discord, while jockeying for regional dominance in 2010 and beyond.

The ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Amnon Aran examines the challenges and opportunities of Saudi foreign policy, arguing that its promotion of the Middle East peace process could improve not only its geopolitical standing but wider regional stability.
  • A Podcast interview with Toby Jones debunks some of the stereotypes about the country’s deep-seated political and religious conservatism to paint a more nuanced picture of a complex land.
  • Security Watch stories about Saudi internet jihad, the country’s foreign relations from Iran to Yemen and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent US Congressional Research Service analysis of Saudi-US relations.
  • Primary Resources, like the Saudi government’s “Initiatives and Actions to Combat Terrorism.”
  • Links to relevant websites, among them the Saudi Woman’s Blog that deals with life and culture in the country from a woman’s perspective.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Ministry of Saudi Foreign Affairs and the Center for Contemporary Middle Eastern Countries.

ISN Weekly Theme: Turkey at the Crossroads

Atatürk's deathbed at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, courtesy of Serdar Gurbuz/flickr

This week the ISN explores the geopolitical implications of Turkey’s strategic location at the intersection of civilizations. For the first time since its Ottoman glory days, the country appears poised to capitalize on its position at the crossroads of East and West.

In this week’s Special Report:

  • An Analysis by Philip McCrum examines Turkey’s rising geopolitical prowess on the regional and international stage.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Ali Tekin explores the political gravitas Turkey has gained through its status as a pipeline thoroughfare.
  • Security Watch stories about a brewing military coup scandal, energy pipeline politics, regional relations and much more on Turkish current affairs.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent Atlantic Community paper on how the US and EU are “Seizing Opportunities from Turkey’s Growing Influence”.
  • Primary Resources, like the full text of Ataturk’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the Turkish republic.
  • Links to relevant websites, among them the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies’ analysis of “Turkey’s Strategic Imperatives (2010-2012)”.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Turkish Statistical Institute.
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