The “Arab Revolts”: Regional Repercussions and World Politics

Tiberio Graziani

By Tiberio Graziani, President of IsAG – Institute for Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences, director of Geopolitica, Journal of IsAG

The turmoil started in North Africa in December 2010, and then last year extended to much of the Arab world and culminated in the military aggression against Libya, going beyond the regional context and becoming part of the U.S. strategy directed at military, economic and political control not only of the Mediterranean, but also of the Middle East and Africa. More than a year into the “Arab Spring” a brief assessment is proposed of its impact in the uni-multipolar transition process.

The “Arab Spring”: an episode in the struggle for world supremacy?

At a distance of over a year, several factors suggest that the upheavals that began in North Africa on 17 December 2010 with the suicide of the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, and then spread through much of the Arab world in 2011, go beyond the regional context and seem to form part of U.S. strategy directed at military, economic and political control not only in the Mediterranean, but also the Middle East and Africa.

The so-called Arab Spring, even if arising from some endogenous factors that certainly contributed to triggering it1, is positioned in the middle of the dynamic process of transition from the unipolar to the multipolar system. This process that began in the mid-nineties with the emergence of China and India as new economic powers has accelerated and assumed a more clear distinct geopolitical repositioning of Russia as a global actor, operated by Putin during his two first presidential terms (2000-2008). The unexpected entrance of the Eurasian continental powers into the international arena, as is known, took the U.S. off guard, which, to take global supremacy, in both geostrategic terms and in the acquisition of energy reserves, had already, since the end of the bipolar system, taken a decidedly military turn in its own geopolitical practices (geopolitics of chaos).

The ongoing geopolitical dialectic between the continental and maritime powers came up again with renewed vigor at the dawn of the 21st century. It would replay, as we have seen over recent years, old patterns of military, political and economic confrontation in certain areas of the planet. One such area is the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean basin and the greater Central Asian space constitute a long and wide hinge whose dismantling is a necessary precondition for any extra-continental power intending to secure global domination. The confrontation for world supremacy consists mainly in control of Euro-Afro-Asian landmass. The tension between the opposing lines of force regards, on the one hand, the progressive insertion of the U.S. in the Eurasian landmass and, on the other, the emergence and reassertion of ancient continental powers, in which the Mediterranean is one of the most critical areas. The U.S.-led Western system, favoring the militarization of international relations (particularly a reinterpretation of multilateralism), has, apart from the first Gulf War (1990-91), first deconstructed the Balkan peninsula, then, to break through to the heart of Asia, carried out the fragmentation of entire areas essential to the cohesion and stability of all of Eurasia (Afghanistan and Iraq).

The war effort by the U.S. and its allies, however, has not succeeded so far in its intent. New geoeconomic and geopolitical groupings, such as those constituted by the BRICS countries or those formalized by strategic alliances between Iran and China, as well as those agreed among the major countries of South America and the Eurasian powers, have in fact profoundly changed the international scenario. The U.S., blocked in its expansion toward Russia because of the Practica di Mare Declaration (2002) and, especially, because of the failure of its strategy based on the so-called “color revolutions,” and bogged down in Afghanistan, has turned its attention toward Africa, particularly in North Africa, and so to the Mediterranean. In this regard, it is no accident that Washington and the Pentagon have triggered the Africa Command and have strengthened the geostrategic base Camp Bondsteel, which is essential for the projection of “Western” land and air forces in the area between the Adriatic and the Caucasus .

Thanks also to the changed global scenario, Mediterranean countries like Italy and Turkey, despite their status as NATO members, that is, nations fully meshed in the western2 system, have tried to timidly free themselves from the instructions issued by the hegemonic alliance to which they belong. “Timid” decoupling actions have included, in particular, relations between Gaddafi’s Libya and Berlusconi’s Italy, Ankara’s “good neighbor” policy towards Arab countries and the simultaneous easing of Turkish relations with Israel, the U.S.’s strategic ally in the Near and Middle East. These actions were, on a strategic level, some effective conditions for the potential bond between Mediterranean countries and, in particular, highlighted globally the Mediterranean’s geopolitical centrality for the purpose of building a new multipolar order.

The attempts to break away noted above have, of course, introduced additional elements of tension into the Mediterranean basin, guarded militarily by Washington, and have to some extent contributed to “interventionist” decisions in Paris and London regarding Libya.

Mediterranean instability

The current Mediterranean scenario presents a weakness in many areas, ranging, as we have seen, from geostrategic to socio-economic and political. The financial and economic crisis that hit the U.S. in 2007-2008 has spread to Europe – thanks to the “national selfishness” underlying the Franco-German (Sarkozy-Merkel) policy choices and those of the most technocratic sectors of Brussels – particularly in the weakest areas of the Old Continent. The attack on the euro, operated by Wall Street and the City with the complicity of the international rating agencies, has effectively deconstructed the national economy and social fabric of Greece, Spain and Italy. The three Mediterranean countries are now in the difficult position of having to submit to diktats from supranational institutions such as the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This subordination further manifests the inability of the ruling classes of the Mediterranean countries mentioned above to find alternative policy paths.

The critical situation in which Mediterranean Europe finds it self today is increased by the calamitous element of the recent North African disturbances. The Mediterranean area seems to be increasingly destabilized. To some extent it seems to be playing an important part of the New Greater Middle East project, devised some years ago by the U.S. administrations.

The cumbersome weight of U.S. foreign policy in the internal affairs of countries in North Africa as well as its military projection in the area have contributed to the constitution of new, uncertain and fragile leadership, which European governments and the major countries involved in the stability of the Mediterranean – mainly Russia and Turkey – are forced to confront today.

Russia and Turkey, while making different choices about Syria, converge in general about their relations with the new centers of power that have emerged during the troubled process of the so-called Arab Spring. Moscow and Ankara are clearly attempting to minimize as much as possible the tensions inside the Mediterranean hinge. Unlike Washington and the Pentagon, Russia and Turkey favor diplomatic channels. This behavior should be appreciated by European nations. The pretext offered by Moscow and Ankara is, in fact, an opportunity (that arose, however, even during the early phases of the “Western” attack against Libya and perceived positively only by Germany) more unique than rare for European countries, especially for Mediterranean ones. The governments of these countries, pivoting on the renewed Russian interest in the Mediterranean, should abandon the hypocritically joint practices pursued up to now, that, although “plotted” and dictated from Brussels, are in fact subordinate to U.S. interests. They should, instead, adopt an openly bilateral policy toward relations with countries on the North African shores.

This new and desirable approach would contribute to slowing the process of dismantling the Mediterranean hinge would undoubtedly enhance Moscow’s role in UN Security Council negotiations, would encourage among the people of North Africa – despite the bilateral relationship – a vision that is no longer “Western,” leveled on Washington, but rather a European (if not Euro-African) cooperation between the two Mediterranean shores.


1. On this see the effective analysis conducted by P. Longo and D. Scalea in their Capire le rivolte arabe. Alle origini del fenomeno rivoluzionario, (Understand the Arab Revolts. Origins of the revolutionary phenomenon). Avatar-IsAG, Dublin 2011.

2. Seen especially in the period 2008-2010.