Many explanatory suppositions have been off ered to account for the civil disorder that struck so many Arab countries in the first six months of 2011. The popular term for this multi-nation upheaval is the Arab Spring. Most of these theories, however, have lacked a mechanism for linking the challenges to existing governments to the specific Arab societies that experienced them. The approach that will be advanced here is that the Arab Spring represented a failure of legitimacy on the part of a particular political formation —rule by military officers and their families, which bore the brunt of the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. Why did the legitimacy of this system of rule suffer simultaneous collapse while other Arab regimes, in particular the monarchies, did not? I term this political formation neo-Mamluk rule to connect it to precursor regimes that go back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Only by tracing the origins of neo-Mamluk rule can one discover the keys to the crisis of legitimacy that has been manifest in recent months.
The causes and processes of the Arab Spring movements are less important for current political developments than the responses to those movements by states that were not directly involved. After discussing the Turkish, Israeli, Iranian, and American responses, the focus turns to the recently announced military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Did the Saudi government conspire with the Egyptian high command to plot the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo? If so, as seems likely, was the United States aware of the conspiracy? More importantly, what does the linkage between the Egyptian army and Saudi and Gulf financial support for President al-Sisi's regime suggest for the future of stability and legitimate rule in the Arab world?
Given the high cost of premodern land transport, inland cities not serviced by any sort of water transport were quite rare before the appearance of motorized vehicles. The emergence of Nishapur in northeastern Iran as the Abbasid caliphate’s second largest metropolis, with a population over 150,000 in the year 1000, thus presents a problem. That it was neither a major governing center during most of its growth period, nor a transshipment node or pilgrimage site, compounds the problem. This article proposes a set of economic, geographic, and social circumstances that taken together may account for its flourishing. It further suggests that these same factors contributed to the city’s emerging distinction as a Muslim religious and cultural center.