This is a 9-part special report by The Economist magazine from July 23, 2009.

 

The Arab World Part-1: Waking From Its Sleep

A quiet revolution has begun in the Arab world; it will be complete only when the last failed dictatorship is voted out. What ails the Arabs? The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this week published the fifth in a series of hard-hitting reports on the state of the Arab world. It makes depressing reading. The Arabs are a dynamic and inventive people whose long and proud history includes fabulous contributions to art, culture, science and, of course, religion. The score of modern Arab states, on the other hand, have been impressive mainly for their consistent record of failure.

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The Arab World Part-2: Waking From Its Sleep

In a special report on the Arab world which The Economist published in 1990, the headline at the top of this page was “When history passes by” (see article). That was when the communist dictatorships of eastern Europe were beginning to wobble and fall. In the Arab world, however, authoritarian rule remained the order of the day. And whereas western Europe was making massive strides towards political and economic union, the Arabs remained woefully divided. Much Arab opinion remained fixated on the struggle with Israel, in which the Arabs seemed unable to hold their own, let alone prevail.

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The Arab World Part-3: The World of Arabs – What Do They Have In Common?

What do they have in common? Convenient as it is to describe the 22 countries (including the unborn Palestine) that belong to the Arab League as “the Arab world”, the neat phrase can mislead. This is a heterogeneous agglomeration of some 350m people —Maronites, Copts, Berbers, Kurds and Africans as well as Arabs and Muslims—inhabiting a miscellany of lands from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and from the Saharan desert to the foothills of Anatolia. So all generalisations about the Arabs—their experiences, instincts and styles of faith or politics—should be treated with scepticism.

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The Arab World Part-4: Arab Freedom – Imposing Freedom

In the month of June an attractive black American politician visited a university in Cairo and made an astonishing speech. “For 60 years,” said the visitor, “my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East—and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.” The year was 2005 and the orator was Condoleezza Rice, George Bush’s secretary of state.

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The Arab World Part-5: Arab Pressures – All Change, No Change

Imagine an Arab Rip Abu Winkle who had fallen into a deep slumber some time in the early 1980s. If he woke up now, he would rub his eyes in disbelief at how little had changed. Hosni Mubarak is still the president of Egypt, after a cool 28 years in the top job. In Syria the grim reaper did for Hafez Assad after a run of three decades as the country’s ruler, but his son, Bashar, has become president in his place. In Tunisia Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali remains president after 22 years. Ali Abdullah Saleh has been president of parts or all of Yemen for more than 30 years. Jordan is still run by the Hashemite family, Morocco by the Alouite family, Saudi Arabia by the al-Sauds and Kuwait by the al- Sabahs. Muammar Qaddafi has been imposing his idiosyncratic brand of “Islamic socialism” on Libyans since 1969. And like Syria, Libya may become a family business on the old man’s death: as in Egypt, there is much talk of a favoured son inheriting the fief.

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The Arab World Part-6: Power In The Arab World – How To Stay Tn Charge

A lot of the wounding comparative statistics trotted out to demonstrate the backwardness of the Arabs appeared first in the Arab Human Development Report of 2002. Its stark findings influenced the design of the Bush administration’s Middle East Partnership Initiative. In the Arab world itself the report owed its resonance to the fact that it was written not by Western technocrats but by a team of Arab academics. The lead author was Nader Fergany, encountered earlier in this report berating the Americans as “the new Mongols” of the Middle East.

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The Arab World Part-7: Arab Dissent – The Fever Under The Surface. A Silent Social Revolution

President Assad’s decision to nip the reform movement in the bud in 2005 should not have surprised Syria’s would-be democrats, for this was a moment of extreme danger to the regime. Influential voices in Washington, DC, were urging Mr Bush to finish what he had started in Iraq by toppling Syria’s leadership too. And in neighbouring Lebanon, which Syria had long treated as a vassal, the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a popular former prime minister, had triggered massive protests. Many Lebanese blamed Syria for Mr Hariri’s murder. Their spontaneous protests—one of the biggest manifestations of “people’s power” the Arab world had witnessed—came to be known as the “cedar revolution”. Within months (and with the prodding of France and America) the cedar revolution forced Mr Assad to withdraw his army from Lebanon, after a stay of 30 years.

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The Arab World Part-8: Arab’s World Future – Which Way Will They Go?

“The Arab world is more or less a vicious circle. None of its problems will be solved soon. All these troubles have the capacity to reinvent themselves.” So says Ali al-Din Hillal Dessouki, a former minister and senior figure in Egypt’s ruling party. This special report opened by arguing that the causes of conflict in the Arab world—the competition for energy, the conflict with Israel, the weakness of Arab statehood and the stagnation of politics—are taking on the characteristics of a chronic condition. But they are not just chronic. They are also connected to each other, and self-reinforcing.

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The Arab World Part-9: When History Passes By (1990 Article)

Old 1990 article by The Economist:  “The Arab world is more or less a vicious circle. None of its problems will be solved soon. All these troubles have the capacity to reinvent themselves.” So says Ali al-Din Hillal Dessouki, a former minister and senior figure in Egypt’s ruling party. This special report opened by arguing that the causes of conflict in the Arab world—the competition for energy, the conflict with Israel, the weakness of Arab statehood and the stagnation of politics—are taking on the characteristics of a chronic condition. But they are not just chronic. They are also connected to each other, and self-reinforcing.

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