Will the "Arab spring" go off the rails?

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It was just over a year ago that the popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt began which were to lead to the fall of the two major authoritarian regimes in North Africa and cause other peoples (the Libyans and the Syrians) to rise up in turn against the dictatorships in place there. Much was expected of that "Arab Spring", supported as it was by various European countries (including France) - not least the establishment of genuine democracies in the countries concerned. However, democracy cannot be established by decree and democratic elections may bring to power leaders who are not greatly inclined to respect it. Is this what we are in danger of seeing in the countries of the southern Mediterranean, where the first democratic votes seem to be paving the way for Islamic regimes that might radicalize to a degree that is as yet unclear? Jean-François Drevet raises that question here, briefly examining the situation of those Arab countries with links to the European Union and the prospects for the Islamists of developing their influence in those countries. Lastly, he shows how the new political situation in that region could change the Union's diplomatic relations with those countries and particularly how the Union could attempt to forestall excessively radical developments.

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The tragic fighting seen in Syria over the last two years or more and the chemical weapons attack of this August have stirred diplomatic services-particularly Western ones-into action in recent months. As is often the case in Europe, the question has been about the limits, particularly the ethical and moral limits, beyond which it becomes necessary to act and about appropriate types of action. In an effort to answer these questions, particularly where the Middle East is concerned, Jean-François Drevet begins by reminding us of the three major types of action resorted to by the USA in comparable contexts over the last 50 years (directing operations from behind the scene, threatening with the "big stick", supporting "moderate" Islamist regimes) and the limits of those types of action. He stresses the particularly chaotic situation that has prevailed in the Middle East since the "Arab Springs" and the failure of the Islamist governments elected in the wake of those events. Lastly, he emphasizes the need for the European Union to show diplomatic coherence (to advance the humanitarian argument, but to do so without exception) and also to draw on its own experience to encourage regional integration that will, at the very least, make it possible to promote peaceful conflict-resolution.
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