Lebanon Pulse

Arab States Must Forge a New Social Contract

Article Summary
Nassif Hitti anticipates a "disordered order" in the region in 2013 and calls for a new social contract in Arab states.  

The regional order that is emerging in the Middle East is still going through shock waves of tensions, crises and changes of different magnitude that are the byproduct of the revolutions spreading from Tunisia to Syria, better labeled as the "conflict of all conflicts" in the region. We are witnessing the proliferation of failed and failing states in the Middle East, unable to establish a new social contract for some between the new emerging regimes and society, a necessary basis for good governance and legitimate stability.

Such a case can be attributed to Egypt and Tunisia as current and adequate examples of this challenge. Other states are facing yet another challenge, the one of the revival of sub- and transnational identities and the difficulty to forge an all-encompassing, inclusive national identity. This latter is clearly seen in Iraq and in Yemen and is expected to be the case for Syria later on. Another key challenge is the economy of countries undergoing transitions, which are facing the vicious cycle of rising expectations and promises of change, while economic indicators are low and these new regimes are still unable to provide a vision and to devise policies to successfully address the economic and social problems that were at the basis of the popular uprising and calls for change.

People cannot be fed on criticism of the past and promises of a better future. Another key challenge in the emerging order in 2013 will be the Islamists’ performance once in power, be they alone or as part of a coalition they control. The Middle East will also be facing a key geopolitical challenge in the year ahead, a challenge that reflects the strong return of sectarianism in regional politics, it is the emerging clash between two political alliances: a Shiite-based alliance driven by Iran and extending from Teheran to Tyre in southern Lebanon, and an emerging Sunni — or, to be specific, a Muslim Brotherhood-based — alliance extending from Turkey to Tunisia. The two are currently clashing in Syria, over Syria and with repercussions for the entire Levant. These are some of the key patterns and game changers on the regional agenda of what looks like an emerging disordered order in the Middle East.

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is head of the Arab League Mission in Paris, a permanent observer at UNESCO and a member of the Board of Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

Found in: turkey’s middle east policy, turkey, syrian, islamists, arab spring, arab

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.


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