When the Next Arab Spring Comes, America Should Be Ready—and Shouldn’t Forget the Abraham Accords https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/politics-current-affairs/2021/10/when-the-next-arab-spring-comes-america-should-be-ready-and-shouldnt-forget-the-abraham-accords/

October 8, 2021 | Sarah Feuer and David Schenker
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When the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East in 2011, overthrowing several regimes and threatening others, American policymakers and scholars were taken entirely by surprise. They were no better prepared for the eruption of protests in Sudan (where they overthrew a brutal Islamist dictatorship), Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in 2019. In both years, Washington’s response was clumsy and occasionally destructive. Since the experts are unlikely to become much better at predicting such “black-swan” events, Sarah Feuer and David Schenker suggest some guidelines that American diplomats can follow the next time unexpected unrest strikes:

If the United States appears to back protestors in friendly states equally or more than demonstrators in adversarial states, it may damage bilateral ties with longstanding partners or reduce precisely the leverage such bilateral ties afford to Washington. Where possible, then, peaceful protests erupting in friendly states should be met by private, but firm, insistence from Washington that governments allow demonstrations to proceed while working to enact meaningful reforms that address the protesters’ grievances. Given the likely lack of U.S. influence on the trajectory of events, more robust—i.e., public—U.S. rhetorical support for protestors may be merited in unfriendly states.

Along these lines, Washington must consider the most appropriate approach toward states that have signed normalization agreements with Israel. Signatory states to the Abraham Accords . . . have periodically engaged in various degrees of repression of political dissent. What policy should Washington adopt toward these states?

In answering this question, it bears keeping in mind that U.S. interests would not be served by the fall of these governments. . . . At the very least, should major protests break out in these states, Washington will need to convey privately the expectation that peaceful demonstrations be permitted, even as it works with these governments to nurture the normalization deals and to ensure they can be leveraged to bring greater economic prosperity to the region.

[In addition, the U.S. should not] lose sight of great-power dynamics. Although there may be circumstances in which U.S. interests align with those of Russia and China, Washington should beware of cooperation offers with the two powers when it comes to engagement in the Arab world, not least when seeking to stave off or to respond to instability. Washington should avoid unforced errors that provide easy wins to China and Russia in the region.

Above all, they argue, America should “focus on the intersection of [its] interests and values.”

Read more on Washington Institute for Near East Policy: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/washington-and-next-arab-spring

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