Thank you, Fred, and thank you all for coming out. Thank you for the invitation to be here. It is a real honor and pleasure to be able to be at BYU and to be part of this conference and to be able to speak to you tonight. I am going to forget, so I am going to answer your question right now. The monkey cage, the origin of that is a famous quote from H.L. Mencken, the great muckraking journalist who said that "democracy is the art of running the zoo from inside the monkey cage." That is apt, but that is not what I am here to talk about today. Today I have been asked to talk about the Middle East and we settled on the title "After the Arab Spring,"which is a somewhat controversial title perhaps, but maybe not so much as it was a little while ago. I mean, look, if you look around the Middle East right now, it is a disaster. It is just a horrible place right now. You almost don't even know where to start. Libya has fallen apart into a civil war, which is destabilizing not only its own country but sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, and Tunisia. Yemen has fallen apart pretty much completely. You have seen the seizure of the capital of Sana'a by the Shia Houthi movement and what appears to be the very possible separation of that country as well into two competing presidencies as the deposed president has fled down to his home in the South. You have Egypt, which has experienced a military coup and has fallen back into fierce and savage repression. You have the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has basically come to an end and seems to be going nowhere, and then in Syria and Iraq you have what appears to be an unstoppable civil war that has ripped those countries apart, has given birth to ISIS, and seems to be dragging the entire—it is like a black whole dragging the entire region down towards the abyss. So it is a happy talk I will be giving today.
To think about where we are right now in the Middle East and to really try to get a grip on it, I think it is really important to put that in the context of where we were not so very, very long ago. Think back February 11, 2011. Not so terribly long ago, the day that Hosni Mubarak left power in Egypt. And this was a day—it came on the tail end of 18 days of popular protest that had gripped the entire country, which riveted the attention of the entire world, in which you had that those unbelievable moments in Tahrir square where you had people from all walks of life, different ideologies, different social groups all come together, seizing the square, demanding democracy, demanding change. And when Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, this was a moment that just made you suddenly feel like things were possible. When you study in the Middle East, when you work in the Middle East for as long as Fred and I have, you kind of get used to things being stuck. Nothing ever changes. You have the same issues again and again and again. How long has the peace process been going on with no change? How long have we been negotiating over the Iranian nuclear program? How long has Iraq been at war? How long have Arab autocracies governed these countries? We all fall into these routines of analysis and routines of life where we come to expect and believe that change is just not possible, that things are as they are and you can't escape it. When Hosni Mubarak stepped down, suddenly there was this moment where we dared to believe that things could be different. When I say 'we' I mean that in the global 'we.' I mean Americans observing the region from the outside. I mean that in the sense of analysts and diplomats who have worked in the region, and I mean it from the perspective of the people who live there themselves. I mean, one of the secrets of the Egyptian revolution (and something I will talk about a bit more in a few minutes) is that when they started it on January 25, when the activists went out in the streets and organized these large protests, not one of them actually thought they were going to win. They didn't expect that they were going to succeed. They didn't believe that they could win either, and yet they did it anyway. They went out and protested. It was a remarkable, amazing moment, but that expectation of the impossibility of progress is a deep, paralyzing thing. It broke for a while, and I think one of the reasons I think the Middle East feels so low right now, why so many people seem gripped by an existential despair is because this is not the way it has always been. It has been the betrayal and frustration of the hopes that many people allowed themselves to have. What I want to talk about today is basically going to be divided into three parts. First, I want to talk about what the Arab uprisings were, the so-called Arab spring, where they came from, how they unfolded, how they matter. Then I am going to get into the less happy part. Part two, I am going to talk about how they failed comprehensively. With only a few exceptions they did fail. I am going to try and talk about why they failed, how they failed, and how it matters that they failed. Then in the third part, I will turn to what Fred was mentioning a minute ago about ISIS, the rise of ISIS, and spend a little bit of time talking about Syria, Iraq, and this new jihadism which we are now confronting and try and place that into the political context I have just given you. Then I will hopefully end with a funny joke. So I will try to think of one.
So let me start with part one, what the Arab uprisings were and where they came from. I started with the fall of Hosni Mubarak and his departure in February 2011. There is a pretty long backstory to this and that back story is really important for understanding where we are right now. That back story is that beginning in roughly the early 1970s, a pretty heavy handed authoritarianism established itself across the Middle East. And this was the kind of authoritarian rule that led to the emergence of these really strong states, states which were able to control, to regulate, and to dominate all facets of life whether it is the media, civil society, public expression, the economy—and it almost didn't matter at a certain point whether you were talking about kings or presidents, republics or monarchies, the same patterns of rule could be seen increasingly across all of these countries. Analysts of the Middle East used to make a big deal of the difference of kings and the president, and then Bashar al-Assad handed down power to his son, just like a king would. So maybe it doesn't matter so much after all. It doesn't even matter so much the rich and the poor because these were embedded in the collective regional system, a regional political economy, a regional politics, which supported this blanket authoritarianism.
You know, if you were working, living in the Middle East in the 1970s or 1980s, it was a dark and dismal time in many ways for any form of not just democracy but basic human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of media, the sorts of things that you want to see as fundamental building blocks of democracy. This was a time when the state was growing, oil was flowing, money was pouring into the coffers of the state, and they were using it in large measure not just to build their countries but also to build large security services and to guarantee that they would stay in power no matter what. It is an interesting thing which people don't think about a lot, but basically if you were on an Arab throne in 1970, when the Arab uprisings broke out in 2011 you were basically still on the throne—you or your designated successor. That is an amazing thing if you really think about it. Over a period of some 40 years, you had almost basically no regime changes. You certainly had the Iranian revolution, but Iran is not an Arab country. Basically, this system of control is based upon keeping the rulers in power, and it was phenomenally successful at doing so. It succeeded at the expense of freedoms, rights, political participation, civil society, modernization, economic development, economic growth—all kinds of things which most people would want to have, but the leaders did stay in power. Now, this begins to change in all kinds of really interesting ways in the decade leading up to the Arab Spring, ways that were largely unrecognized because the power of these Arab authoritarians, these Arab autocrats, was so great and their control over society seemed to be so absolute that people could see what was happening. They could see it in front of their eyes. Academics like Quinn Mecham and others, we talked about this all the time, about all the ways in which the things I am about to say were happening, and yet it didn't dent the basic conviction that political change was going to be impossible because our experience told us that they would lose every time.
What am I talking about? What I am talking about is that over the course of the 2000s, you began to see some real changes taking place below the surface. You weren't seeing leaders being toppled. You weren't seeing regimes being changed, but you saw genuine changes taking place at the level of society, at the level of the economy. You saw significant changes in the way that people were getting to relate to their governments. They were demanding more; they were expecting more; and they were able to express it in fundamentally new ways. When I look at the Middle East in the decade before the Arab Spring, I don't see what I saw in the 1980s. I don't see this stifling autocracy which prevented anybody from speaking their minds. What I saw was a rising wave of public activism and public dissent and public criticism. In Egypt, the most important and most central of the Arab countries, hardly a day went by in the decade before the Arab Spring when you didn't have some protest somewhere. There were thousands of wildcat strikes taking place in factories; you had every sector of politics from students to civil society to unions to lawyers to judges to university professors out there in the streets protesting. You had the emergence of a very critical, independent (rather semi-independent) press that was saying all kinds of scathingly critical things about the president and his people. You saw this happening. In Kuwait, in 2006, you had a major protest movement. In Jordan, you had a major protest movement; you could see this around the region, and it varied in terms of its depth, its magnitude, its scope, but all of this was unfolding in extremely interesting ways. Again, not that anybody thought that it was going to bring down government. The government seemed to be firmly in control, but there was a new energy, a new activism, a new dynamism. In a lot of my own work, I tend to emphasize the importance of the media and especially social media in this period. You had things like the television station Al Jazeera, which was broadcasting all of these very critical talk shows and news broadcasts which were bringing information to people that never had it before. If you go back to the 1980s, if somebody protested in some place in Cairo, police would come and grab them and bring them off to prison to be tortured or killed and nobody would ever know that it ever happened.
By the mid-2000s, the same thing, a small protest with 50 people on a street corner in Cairo is covered by Al Jazeera and 10 million Arabs see it in real time, including all of those Egyptians who otherwise might not even have known that there was dissent in their own country. You are seeing the broadcast media television and you are also seeing the emergence of social media in the second half of the decade. There has been a lot written about the role of Facebook and Twitter and social media and the revolutions. I tend to fall in the middle camp of how important it was in terms of causing those revolutions. I will say that it was absolutely revolutionary in the sense that you have more and more citizens able to express themselves and able to consume news in sophisticated ways and to communicate and find each other. In the 1980s, dissidence in places like Syria or places like Libya or places like Jordan would be furtively hiding in their basement and listening to BBC and hoping that the police wouldn't find them. By the mid to late 2000s they are on Twitter; they are on Facebook; they are saying scathing, mocking things about the president and the king and the First Lady. They are organizing; they are doing all these things. The way that I looked at this over the course of the 2000s was that you had this rising tide of protests. The tide is coming in. The waves are rising and they are hitting against a pretty high break. You have got a wall there and you know, the waves hitting here, it is hitting here, it is hitting here, and everyone is looking at it and saying, "Man, those stupid waves. They never give up do they?" The idea was the waves keep hitting and the wall never falls. What people were missing was that the waves were getting higher and higher and higher and the walls were developing more and more cracks. Basically, one way to understand the Arab uprisings in 2010–2011 is not that you suddenly had a wave of protest that came out of nowhere— it is that suddenly the waves got high enough the wall broke and then when it broke, the whole sea came rushing in. And the sea didn't come from nowhere. That is the really crucial thing that I am trying to say is that you could see this developing over the course of the 2000s. What were the drivers? A lot of the drivers were a lot of the economic changes that were taking place. What you saw across much of the region was the emergence of what you call a crony capitalist class. People were getting phenomenally rich and making International Monetary Fund very happy because GDP growth is going well. And you are seeing lots of people driving fancy cars and flying off to Davos, but meanwhile the poor are getting poorer. Poverty is increasing; the middle class is being completely wiped out; infrastructure is crumbling. And you are seeing this utter failure of governance taking place across many of the countries in the region. You are seeing growing misery, increasingly open and over corruption, and the social media and media is there to bring it to all the people's attention. You couldn't avoid knowing about these things anymore. This was growing in this rising wave over the course of a decade. Then it hits. I will say that academics, policy makers, intelligence analysts, almost everybody saw what I am describing. Everybody saw it happening, they just didn't think it was going to break through. Neither did the activists. Nobody thought they were going to break through, but they thought that it was worthwhile to keep trying.
The Arab Spring gets going with revolution in Tunisia, and the revolution in Tunisia was one of those things that I think really couldn't have been predicted in the sense of the specific time or the specific place. Revolution breaks out famously. The story that you hear in every single book (I can't remember. Probably in my book too), it all starts with Mohamed Bouazizi; he sets himself on fire, and then the flames spread to consume the entire Middle East. You have all heard this story before. What is interesting about that is people like Mohamed Bouazizi had set themselves on fire a dozen times in the previous year and nothing had happened. It is not like this was a mystical thing which started something out of nowhere. There was a moment, though, where something was done differently. There was a publicity campaign, there was the ability to get information out via Facebook, there were protests that stepped up and it basically just spread very quickly and it overwhelmed the ability of the Tunisian military and police to contain what was going on. By the time they figured out what was going on, demonstrators had seized the central square in Tunis on Bourguiba street, they had set up camp, the military told the corrupt and ailing president that they were not going to butcher their own people to keep him in power, and he got on an airplane and left. So this is a story that could have been told anywhere. What was interesting about it happening in Tunisia was that even though this was a fairly isolated part of the Arab world, Al Jazeera was covering it heavily. Social media was covering it heavily. Everybody was watching it, and everybody in the entire Arab world, when they saw Ben Ali flee and they saw success in Tunisia—suddenly everything that I had said five minutes ago was thrown into doubt. It was the first time that anybody in the region really thought that success was possible, and hope is an intoxicating thing. If you don't think there is any chance of winning and you know that going out and protesting is going to get you beat up, get your passport confiscated, get your sister thrown out of her job, get your parents tortured, you have to be really darn brave to do that. As I said, many of you were brave enough to do that. You introduced the element of hope, the possibility of victory and a lot more people are willing to take that chance. That is what you saw in Egypt on January 25. The activist came out on January 25. They had every reason to think that it was going to be like all the other times they came out: 10,000 people would go out, the cameras would cover it, they would get beaten up, they would lose, but they would have sent a message. They would have been able to demonstrate that Egyptians were protesting, but when they went out in the streets on January 25, instead of 10,000 people like it had always been in the past, now it was a million people. And the million people simply overwhelmed the police. The Egyptian authorities weren't caught by surprise. They were waiting. They were guarding Tahrir Square with troops and ranks ten deep, but they were simply overwhelmed by the massive numbers of people that came out of the streets. Why do these people come out on the streets? It is hard question, but I firmly believe that it is because they had been watching what had happened in Tunisia and that made them believe that victory was possible.
Now I don't have time here to go through the whole story of the Egyptian revolution, nor any of these revolutions, but I will simply say that when Mubarak then falls on February 11th, this is basically turbo charging protest in the entire Arab world. Basically this script goes from, "We can never win." Tunisia: "Maybe we can win." To Egypt: "We are definitely going to win." It is hard to recapture the enthusiasm and optimism of people in February of 2011. Everybody thought that they were going to be next and that it was going to be peaceful and that it was going to be fast and that they were going to be able to rapidly overthrow dictators and move towards democracy. It is a terrible, tragic irony that it never happened again in any Arab country. You did, in fact, see these massive waves of protests breaking out from Yemen all the way to Morocco. You saw it in the Gulf; you saw it in the Levant; you saw it in North Africa, basically, this unified wave of protest breaking out. When I say unified, I don't just mean simultaneous. I mean that it was actively unified. They were using the same slogans. They were holding up the same signs. They were watching each other protest on Al Jazeera and taking notes on each other and cheering each other on. It was an amazing moment. I think I wrote in my book that the definitive moment, the symbol of the Arab Spring for me was watching Al Jazeera, and they would have one of those six, split screen TVs and they would be showing six different Arab countries simultaneously, and people would be marching and protesting and all six of them, all chanting the same slogans at the same time. That is an amazing thing, that simultaneity, power, imitation and enthusiasm. But as I said, they all failed, every single one of them.
Let me now go to part two, what went wrong. I would say that the simple answer to what went wrong is that the Arab autocrats, whose primary goal in life is to stay in power and pretty much nothing else, adapted and caught up and decided that they were not going to repeat those messages. Unfortunately, the messages that they took away from Tunisia and Egypt is that if you don't slaughter your own people and if you make any concessions, you are going to be overthrown. Not being overthrown is my only purpose in life, therefore I am going to make sure that doesn't happen to me. You see then protests giving way to violence and hard core state repression almost everywhere in ways that overwhelm the protestors. In Bahrain, you saw the police backed up by Saudi and Emirati troops going in and bulldozing the central square where the protesters were gathered. Remember, at this point over half the population of the country is in the streets protesting. This is not a small movement. Over half the population of the country on the streets protesting; sturdy forces come in, crush it, throw a whole lot of people in jail, massive campaign of repression and torture, basically defeat and destroy a highly mobilized popular movement. In Yemen, the protest movement leads to the split of the military. The entire armed division breaks off and turns its guns against the central government and you end up with the protesters seizing a central square with two armed forces on either side of them. Turns into an armed civil war stalemate. Libya protestors are met with live ammunition that leads rapidly to a turning into a civil war, which leads to a NATO military intervention and the eventual overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi. In Syria, the protests are met with live ammunition and extreme brute repression, and they bring us into the horrors that we have today.
In other places like Jordan and Morocco, you see the kings getting out in front of the protest offering limited constitutional reforms, dividing and co-opting the opposition, and basically playing that game fairly effectively and staying in power that way just long enough until the fever breaks and the momentum dissipates and things settle back down into that dreary reality. Even in Egypt, things go bad rather quickly. The protesters were unable to turn their momentum in any sustained move towards democracy. Again, I could go on and on and on and on about what happened in Egypt. It was one of the worst-managed transitions in history, and people made a whole slew of extraordinarily stupid decisions along the way, but it is not because they are stupid. Egyptians are savvy, they are smart, they were doing the best they could, but they were doing so in a deeply uninstitutionalized, unpredictable environment in which they were scared of each other, scared of the future, and they basically gave into their worst impulses at every step of the way. Egypt had a chance. There is a narrative right now that Egypt never had a chance and I fundamentally disagree with it. I actually thought that Egypt had a very real chance of making a transition to democracy, but I think that it just wasn't meant to be. I am happy in the Q&A to go into more about why I think it is that Egypt failed, but Egypt did fail and its attempted transition to democracy and on July 3rd with the military coup and Egypt today is considerably more repressive, more authoritarian, more xenophobic, more intolerant than it was before the revolution. It is very sad turn of the events.
The only country which has managed to avoid this fate is Tunisia. I was there a couple months ago, and it really is impressive to see that Tunisia made it. People forget that when I say that they made it, I mean that they managed to hold successive elections, which led to the peaceful rotation of power and to adopt a new constitution that commanded strong majority of popular support and gave solid foundations for progress going forward. That is fantastic. People forget that it came extremely close to failing. Summer of 2013 was extremely polarized; there were assassinations in the streets; there was talk of a new coup, and I personally believe that the only reason that Tunisia avoided Egypt's fade was that Tunisians looked at how horrible Egypt was and decided that they didn't want to go that route and they took a step back from the brink in order to avoid Egypt's fate. In the elections which followed and the ones which gave us a successful move towards democratization, the winners were essentially the old regime and figures, not just figuratively but literally. The newly elected president El-Sisi was a figure of the old regime and in many ways, the old regime has now come back into power through elections. I still am very optimistic about Tunisia. I love Tunisia and feel like they have a good chance of succeeding, but it really is the exception. Almost every place else has failed. Basically what you have is the weak states were shattered, your Libyas and your Yemens. The strong states crushed dissent, and the ones in the middle had that Egypt-Tunisia experience.
Which then brings me to the last thing I want to talk about which is the rising Jihadism, ISIS, and the effects of the failed states and the wars that we are now living through. If the only success I can point to is Tunisia, I can point to a lot of really horrific failures. The Syrian civil war is one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of the post-Cold War world and arguably one of the greatest ever. It is a country where something in the ballpark of one-third of the population is now refugees, either internally or externally; where even the conservative counts of the dead—and no one really has any solid count of the dead—are astronomical. Entire cities have been bulldozed, and the country has become a wasteland of civil war and warlordism, which is unlikely to be restored anytime in the next 5–7 years. Whether the United States intervenes or not is largely irrelevant at this point and has been for a very long time. This is a shattered country and, again, that is in Syria. If the spillover effects went into Iraq, Iraq has now experienced many of the same conditions. I will talk a little bit more about that in a minute, but it also sends to Libya and Yemen where states have been. The states that fell haven't been replaced by anything, and you essentially have ungoverned spaces which are characterized by intense polarization, localization of politics, militia rule. You are looking at these places where it is not that Jihadism catches the attention, and this Jihadist groups do demand attention, but the larger story is that it is very difficult to imagine how these countries will be put back together and become functioning countries with normal economies that can produce a new generation of aspirational youth. These are shattered countries, at least four. That is my nice count, that you have at least four countries, out of the 20 countries in the Arab world which are just fundamentally and potentially irrevocably shattered and that is going to have long lasting consequences.
Now ISIS. ISIS is now the thing that we most focus upon in our research and in our analysis and certainly on TV—and for good reasons. ISIS represents a real threat and a real challenge and a really particularly vicious strand of Jihadist organization. Where did it come from? How does it fit into all of this? Basically, you have a narrow and then a wider view of this. The narrower view is that it is an organization which comes out of a combination of Assyrian civil war and the legacies of American occupation of Iraq. So the organization itself, ISIS, emerges out of the Iraqi insurgency and the Sunni-Iraqi insurgency, which the United States was fighting. I understand John Nagl was here last week and I am sure he had something to say about it. The United States was helping to fight this insurgency in Iraq (and we can talk all day about the emergence of the insurgency, the surge, the Iraqi awakening where tribes and nationalist militias turned against Al Qaeda, it is a fascinating story). At the end of it, Al Qaeda and Iraq, which became the Islamic State in Iraq, never vanished. It was beaten back, but it never disappeared. Its infrastructure wasn't uprooted; many of its individual survived; they went into hiding; they left and went back out to Syria, but they were always able to come back. Over the next few years, the prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki squandered everything which had been gained by ruling as an extraordinarily sectarian, corrupt would-be despot, trying to do to Iraq the sorts of things that I was talking about before: establishing a highly sectarian corrupt form of government which would guarantee that he would stay in power forever. Part of that meant that he ended up alienating many of those Sunnis that had turned against Al Qaeda and tried to join up and become a renewed part of the Iraqi state. Many of the factions that had aligned themselves against Al Qaeda flipped back. Protest movement broke out and that protest movement was repressed with brutal, bloody force by Maliki's forces driving more and more Sunnis back over to the side of the insurgency. So one part of ISIS is that it is simply the resurgence of a very, very, very familiar enemy in Iraq, and the primary culprit in its evolution was the combination of the occupation of Iraq and then more proximately, the sectarian misgovernance of Iraq by Nouri al-Maliki.
Simultaneously, beginning in March of 2011, the civil war breaks out in Syria. It starts off as a peaceful uprising, it has met with horrific brutality on the part of the outside regime, which basically is slaughtering peaceful protesters and doing everything it can to crush it by force. By the time you get to the end of 2011, the Syrian peaceful movement is increasingly militarized and increasingly becomes an insurgency. Money and guns flood in from the outside from Turkey, from the gulf, and more and more of those money and guns go to extremist Islamist factions, of which ISIS emerges as a breakaway from one of those Al-Qaeda affiliated factions Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra was just one of these many armed Islamic factions that were fighting in the civil war, and ISIS emerges in Syria as one of dozens of these organizations fighting in the shattered terrain of the Syrian civil war. Its advantage was that it was able to hook up with that renewed insurgency in Iraq, and by erasing the border between them, it was able to gain some real advantages. Weapons captured in Iraq could be sent up to the front line in Syria. Money captured in Syria could be sent down to Iraq. They were able to work together basically to give them advantage that none of the other fighting groups had, and that gave them a huge advantage. They would have continued, I think, as just one of the many groups if it weren't for the sudden lightning blitzkrieg across Iraq in the summer of 2014, when you suddenly saw them seizing Mosul, the third largest city in Iraq, moving quickly towards the gates of Baghdad and towards Arabia. People suddenly were forced to pay attention to this.
What is amazing about this, though, was that they did this with a very small number of fighters and in alignment with local forces and were able to gain enormous successes. Two Iraqi armed divisions simply ran away when they saw the Islamic state forces coming towards them. Why did they do that? Because of the sectarian misgovernance of Iraq which had led to basically these empty phantom divisions where people were in no sense of the way willing to die or fight against people who they had watched online decapitating their prisoners. They would much rather run away than fight against that. So ISIS was able to grab this territory, grab resources, capture American weaponry (America provided weaponry), loot the wealthy areas of Mosul. And then all of that money was able to go back to Syria and they established this thing called the Islamic state.
That is just Syria and Iraq, though. If that is all it was, then I don't think we would be talking about it quite so much. I think what we worry about is that we worry about it becoming a global movement and we worry that it is, in a sense, becoming the vanguard of this new caliphate, this new vanguard of an existential war between Islam and the West. People will talk and you have probably seen these maps online where they will show this black shroud covering two-thirds of the map of the Middle East and everything—and I have got to tell you, this is an extraordinarily, irresponsibly exaggerated. So Algeria will be placed under the caliphate and the official assessment of Algeria is that there is about 20 people in the ISIS affiliate in Algeria. The only places where ISIS has actually managed to set up a real strong hold of any kind is in the Sinai and in Libya. What do those two places have in common? They are shattered states that are completely ungoverned in which there were already Islamist insurgencies going on. In the Sinai there was Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and a number of other indigenous Islamist Jihad organizations that were fighting there, and so it was a place that was ripe and open for ISIS to establish itself. Similarly in Libya, a shattered state with militias everywhere and opened borders, and again, the kind of place where they could establish themselves. So that is the extent of their spread. There is the inspiration—but here we are back in the territory that was pioneered by Al-Qaeda and here ISIS is competing with two other types of Islamism. They are competing with Al-Qaeda and they are competing with the Muslim brotherhood, and what they are competing for is to try and establish themselves as the leader of Islamist politics around the region. They want to capture all of those disgruntled alienated people who are looking for some kind of movement where they can fight against the status quo that they hate. Al-Qaeda used to be that vanguard, but Al-Qaeda has fallen on some very tough times. Bin Laden was killed; there has been relentless war against Al-Qaeda's forces and counter-terrorism campaigns, and Al-Qaeda's brand has lost a great deal of its luster. ISIS has been able to appeal very effectively to the types of people who once would have been attracted to Al-Qaeda. Those are an enormously small number of people. That is what we tend to forget. We talk about the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq and the numbers are mind boggling. 40,000 fighters have flown in. That is the most they have ever gone on this kind of foreign fighting crusade before. Yet, 40,000 out of 1.3 billion Muslims. Al-Qaeda was never a mass movement. They were never able to. They wanted to be, but they couldn't be, and I suspect ISIS is in the same place.
The other major competitor is the Muslim Brotherhood, a mainstream Islamist movement which participated in elections, participated in public life, and genuinely was a mass movement. Al-Qaeda and ISIS together—they might have somewhere in the tens of thousands of adherence, but Muslim Brothers could claim in the multiple millions of adherence. The Muslim Brotherhood has also fallen on tough times. After the military coup in Egypt, they were fiercely repressed. Their leadership, their organization imprisoned and crushed, large numbers of their people either driven into exile or thrown into jail and then around the region they had been criminalized. They are the focus of a region-wide security crackdown and the result of this is that this mass organization, which in the past would have been able to take those alienated disgruntled people and give them a political direction. They have been crushed. What are you going to say if you are trying to talk to—put yourself in the mind of an angry, politicized 23-year-old Muslim in Cairo and you want to say to him, "Look, join into formal, organized politics, run an election and everything will be fine." You can't say that anymore because the lesson is that you compete in politics and then if you win, the elections are cancelled and you are thrown in jail and you are tortured and possibly killed. It is not a very uplifting message. Basically, what we have seen is that the combination of the failures of the Arab Spring and the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood has created a growing pool of really alienated, angry young people who no longer see any other alternatives. ISIS is bidding for the support of those people and getting only a fraction of that support, but that has been enough so far to sustain them in what is really a low-manpower enterprise. What does it mean for us going forward? Here I am going to wrap this up because I want to make sure we have time for questions. There are a lot of things I know I haven't discussed.
What it means for us going forward (and here I am going to fall back into the ethnocentric American "us"), is that we are looking at a region where we have a real dilemma. We want to fight ISIS; if you listen to the President's comments about combatting violent extremism last week, you will see that he and the White House, they understand that if you are to fight these people and prevent them from recruiting, you need to give them a better alternative. You need to give them human rights and democracy and reform and economic hope and all of these things. Unfortunately, all of the governments that we are allied with are going in the other direction, and they are becoming more repressive, less democratic, and more abusive of human rights, which means that our partners are more or less actively working against the solution that we know we need to bring about. People who once saw hope in 2011 are dispirited—dispirited is actually probably too mild of a word—they are furious, they are outraged, they are alienated and see no prospect of a return towards democracy. We are in a position where we are being drawn back in to things like Iraq, which I think many Americans were happy to be rid of. So I think the war we are going to be facing for the foreseeable future is we have very few viable, effective partners in a region which is in immense turmoil, but where we are actually fairly marginal players, where we do not decide the outcomes in any of these places and have a very limited ability to speak to the hopes, the fears, the aspirations of the people in the region that I think we would like to reach. Analytically, it is probably pretty clear by now that I am not particularly optimistic about the region in the short term. I don't think Egypt is going to go back to a path to democracy any time soon and I see no signs whatsoever that the current president is going to be able to solve the economic or social problems which caused the revolution in the first place. I don't see any real reason for expecting a move in a democratic direction or a return to stability. I don't think the Syrian civil war is going to be resolved for another half decade. I don't think that we are going to see a reversal of those trends. If we manage to get a nuclear deal with Iran I think that will help quite a bit but it is not going to solve all of these unresolved problems. At the same time, and here is where I am going to try and end on a somewhat more positive note, I still believe that over the longer term all of the trends are still in the direction of the inevitability of change. This is still an extremely young population, a wired population, and one that has seen the possibility of change. I think the odds of going back to the old comfortable, authoritarian bargain of the control of information of these endless authoritarian regimes is exceedingly low. I think we are going to be seeing turbulence, contention, challenges, surprising collapses of regimes happening with remarkable frequency over the next five to ten years. Does that mean that we are going to see transition to democracy? I am not as optimistic about that, but if you think that turbulence and challenge and instability is a good thing, then we have some good things coming our way. Then I say this not to be flippant, but simply to say that if we recognize that and direct policy towards trying to manage that and push it in a more positive direction, we are much more likely to have success than with some of the grander aspirations that we might once have had. And with that I will stop and try and answer all of your questions. Thank you.