The awakening is not over, but the heady days of the Arab Spring have come to an end. The counter-revolution, Régis Debray once observed, is revolutionised by the revolution. And so it has been. In Syria, protests have degenerated into sectarian warfare, fomented by a thuggish ruling clique that seems ready to bring the entire country down with it. In Yemen, President Saleh has agreed to stand down after nearly three decades in power, but on the northern border with Saudi Arabia, the dirty war between Shia Houthi rebels and Salafists is getting nastier. In Libya, the oil companies are doing business again, but the country’s new rulers, swept to power by Nato, are talking about restoring Sharia law, perhaps even polygamy. In Bahrain, a peaceful uprising by the Shia majority has been crushed by the al-Khalifa monarchy, with help from troops dispatched by Saudi Arabia. (Tehran, the Saudis claimed, was behind the protests, an assertion rejected by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November.) Never keen on popular politics, and furious with the Americans for ‘deserting’ their mutual friend Mubarak, the Saudis have been assiduously fighting the revolutionary wave, mostly with petrodollars, sometimes with guns. The Obama administration was not pleased with the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, but it barely uttered a word of criticism: the Fifth Fleet is stationed there, and preserving the special relationship with the House of Saud is paramount.
more from Adam Shatz at the LRB here.