Arab Spring – Reintegration or further disintegration of the region?

By Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami:

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Levant, Iraq and Iran are the regions that were mostly conquered by Muslim armies at the time of the Rashidun Caliphs. They converted the whole swath of land to the religion of Islam. After conversion to Islam, the people of the region lived under different Muslim dynasties from the seventh century AD untl the early twentieth century as autonomous geographic units under a central command that has shifted according to advent and exodus of different dynasties. Then came the western Christian imperial powers of the British, French and Italian empires. They removed the fragmented Muslim rulers and ruled the region with an iron fist for almost a century. The masses of the occupied lands rose against their occupiers and a freedom struggle started taking shape in the region.

When the military occupation became difficult for the colonial powers, they devised a plan to divide and rule the colonized territories indirectly. Prior to relinquishing their decree they divided the land of Arabs & Muslims into small sovereign states to rule them circuitously. To control the power structure of those countries they curbed the people’s voice by supporting despots for their own benefits and provided them the required legitimacy to rule their people with the same iron fist that they used to rule with.

The people of the region who speak the same language and are adherent of the same religion of Islam are being divided by the colonial powers to suit future geopolitics. Muaamar Ghaddafi the deceased Libyan leader might have developed Libya and made the country best on social indicators in the African continent but he was the foremost opponent of Arab Maghreb unity; the same with Ben Ali and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and King Mohammad of Morocco. Mubarak contained Egypt in its geographic boundaries and relinquishes its leadership status amongst Arabs in general and North Africans in particular. The Assad family has ruled Syria for the last four decades and their main motive was to rule the country against the wishes of the people and they never try to annul the illegitimate division of Levant by the colonial powers.

The discontent of the people against the dictatorial rulers of this region exploded in the form of Arab spring where people poured onto the streets defying the threats and fear of the cruel dictators. In many countries they have forced the dictators out and deposed them from the power. Still the people of Syria are fighting against the dictatorial regime of Basher al Assad and in any case he will have to relinquish power in days to come.

The question that here arises is: will this lead to the integration of the region or will it be divided further in small political units to suit the western powers who will again to rule them indirectly for decades to come? In my view the people of the region want to live with dignity and unity under the umbrella of central headship and they know that only the unity amongst the people of the region can provide them what they want.

Many observers are of the belief that the Arab spring is a western-hatched plan to further disintegrate the countries of the Middle East and North Africa into smaller sovereign entities. That will serve the purpose of the neo-colonial powers of USA & its European partners. That will further increase the unchallenged life-span of the Jewish state of Israel. The disintegration of Libya into Benghazi and Tripolitania and Coptic land for Egyptian Christians. The further creation of Alawi sovereign lands and likewise for the Druze and Christians in Syria is on the cards.

Foreseeable Kurdish integration is also a very important development in the region, scattered in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria if Kurds are able to unite under one umbrella or with a strategic alliance, the Kurds can change the whole dynamics of the region. Yet it is for the Kurds to get united first under a common and stated vision.

Recent regional turmoil seems to make this the right time for Kurds to assert to their goal of living under one umbrella with fellow Arabs and Turks in a unified sovereign/ autonomous region. (The problems of Kurds in Iran are somehow different from the other Kurdish regions. In Iran they have two simultaneous problems of religion and ethnicity/language. The majority of Kurds in Iran remain Sunni after more than five centuries rule by Shi’ite regimes).

If people of the region will be able to attain real democracy then certainly we will see the boundaries of the current nation states of the entire region dismantle and a reintegration process of the geography of the region, from peninsula Arabia to the Levant and further to the Eastern-most Arab lands (Arab Maghreb) will form the shape of the union. To attain the goal of reintegration, peoples’ movements are important to make it an issue on the political and electoral agenda and force the leaders to fight the elections on the agenda of regional integration.

There is no reason why the adherents of the same religion and people who speak the same language and most importantly live in same geography cannot unite and live under one umbrella of central leadership as they used to live for centuries before the advent of western colonial powers.

The leaders of Tunisia and Libya have already raised the issue of assimilation of their respective countries into a single political entity. If the nascent democracy will be able to prevail in the countries of the region then we may witness the integration in the newly liberated countries of  North Africa. This will culminate in a people’s movement in the other countries like Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, of the redundant Arab Maghreb Union, then the Levant after the fall of the Al-Assad regime in Syria. Peninsula Arab sheikhdoms that have already formed a loose form of union called the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), are already looking forward to strengthen it to a full-fledged union (combined economy, armed forces and foreign relations ) of the current member states and later may include Yemen too.

The people of the region do not harbor mistrust amongst themselves; it is and was the dictators who sow (ed) the seed of mistrust amongst the people to tighten their grip on power through the fervor of pseudo nationalism. That Arab nationalism has already vanished. The major Western powers including the state of Israel will try their best to resist the change but the natural flow and free will of people shall ultimately prevail.

The Arab spring is a natural flow of people’s will and it clearly indicates what the people want. There is the hell of the difference between exactly what the people want and what the despots of the region do. The people want the integration of the region into union or federation. Receding nationalism is slowly being replaced by religious patriotism, spearheaded by the transnational ideology of Muslim Brotherhood, and this is a natural flow and will of the people to reshape the regional geography. Only time will tell whether the present upheaval will ultimately help to integrate the region or whether the chaos will be exploited by western imperialist to further disintegrate the region and fulfil the goals of their grand chess board.

Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami is a Delhi-based independent analyst on international relations and geopolitics. His special focus is on West Asian & North African affairs.

The writer can be contacted at:

Copyright © 2013

4 Responses to Arab Spring – Reintegration or further disintegration of the region?
  1. Lorenzo Garcia
    June 1, 2013 | 08:10

    I would love to call the Arab Spring for a Democracy Spring. Of course, it is nonsense.
    Democracy is a fiction in the Middle East and when autocrats of all kinds are changed to new autocrats.
    Power corrupts! The outcome of the Arab Spring so far is that foreign people in the name of God, fight, murder fellow muslims in the name of justice and when they come to power, justice is the first victim together with the truth anyway for all people not belonging to the ruling clique.
    The same procedure repeats all over again.
    I am convinced that if democracy roots in the Middle East, it will come from educated masses who are able to make own judgements, decisions and handlings. Being responsible for their deeds to a set of rules called Justice.

  2. […] Arab spring reintegration or further disintegration of the region? Though this article covers the entire region yet the Syrian Civil war can bee seen from it's spectacles. There has only been speculations let us wait till the Geneva- 2 then only it will be clear what course of action Syrian struggle will take place. S 300 whether arrived or not, Mig 29 will be supplied or not and how far Hezbollah can go in side Syria? the Syrian issue has become one of the most controversial swamp in the recent past of global geopolitics. Arab Spring – Reintegration or further disintegration of the region? | The Kurdistan Tribune […]

  3. umesh sharma
    July 18, 2014 | 00:07

    Happenings in Arab nations have been nicely summerised both from historical & political reality. My only observation is that you have not touched upon the role of Saudi Arab and Iran in proloting Muslims’ Sectarian identities. All said n done,Arabs have not yet forgotten their tribal identities and love for arms. I dont see support for unified commond or caliphate from Nile to Jhelum. Sub national identities are more stronger in the region and can not be underplayed. Thanks

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