Middle East Briefs
Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.
February 2021 – The Great Thaw in Arab Domestic Politics
David Siddhartha Patel
Middle East Brief 140 (Summary) — In the decade since the Arab uprisings began in 2010-2011, the Arab world has seen bouts of popular protest, leaders deposed, civil wars, and interventions by regional and global powers. This churn is often described as a regionwide revolutionary hangover that will eventually subside. In this Brief, David Siddhartha Patel argues that the unrest of the "post Arab Spring period" only seems like an aberration because, in several ways, domestic politics in Arab states were frozen from the 1970s to the early 2000s. He argues that it is that period—when Arab leaders almost never fell—that was anomalous. Before a huge increase in oil rents from 1973 to 1986 dramatically strengthened states and regimes, the domestic politics of the Arab Middle East were just as tumultuous and dynamic as they have been since 2011. Today, oil prices are lower and states are weaker than they were during the oil-enabled "ice age." The current moment, therefore, is not an interregnum between eras of authoritarian stability in the Arab world; in a sense, disorder is the (not so) new order.