July 18, 2013
Dr. Scott Helfstein has published an article entitled "The Rise of Sectarian Populism" that explores the impact of grassroots activism on the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East and North Africa. It suggests that "Nascent democracies and grassroots activism will pave the way for political upstarts with no clear track record of governance," and the "transitions towards democracy have added a new element to a region long-plagued by sectarianism: populism" It argues that "Sectarian populism, the tendency for political leaders to align themselves along sectarian lines as show of solidarity with their constituency, is quickly becoming the dominant factor in Middle Eastern politics and a critical driver of regional instability. Events in Syria have thrown the region, already moving towards sectarian populism after the Arab Spring, into a tailspin with no clear exit options. As Syria disintegrates, Iran will look for a new ally. Iraq will grow concerned about its territorial integrity with a Sunni-controlled government in Aleppo next door, while Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt will likely face spillover effects that could mean even more political turmoil.
The article can be found here.
Combating Terrorism Center
Scott Helfstein is the director of research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. All views expressed here are his own.