Analysis: Overview of unrest in the Middle East
Source: Stratfor.com , Author: Reva Bhalla
Posted: Wed February 16, 2011 12:12 pm

INTERNATIONAL. With protests breaking out everywhere from Yemen to Bahrain to Algeria to Iran, everyone is asking themselves who’s next in the so-called wave of revolutions. Now while there are some common trends in each of these countries, this can’t be seen as some sort of domino effect where revolutions will spread everywhere in sight.

Each of these countries are living in very unique circumstances, and understanding those factors are important in understanding which of these regimes are really at risk.

There are common threads to many of the countries experiencing unrest right now. First, most obviously, you have severe socio-economic conditions where you have high rates of youth unemployment in particular, inflationary pressures driving up the price of food and fuel, lack of basic services. Overall, you see a general reaction to decades of crony capitalism that really built up during the Nasserite era in this region.

Exacerbating matters in places like Algeria and Yemen are these illegitimate succession plans. So for example, in Yemen, the president has already announced that he is not going to run again for president in 2013, nor will his son, and that was designed to appease the political opposition. So far it seems to have worked, and the political opposition has dropped out of the demonstrations, leaving those on the streets more and more divided.

Now, in Algeria, the main concern is not so much the civil unrest in the streets, although that’s notable. The real concern is who is manipulating that unrest behind the scenes. So in Algeria, you have an intense power struggle that’s been playing out between an increasingly embattled president, who has wanted to hand the reins over to his brother, and a powerful intelligence minister, who is hotly opposed to those plans. So as these demonstrations play out, it’s extremely important to take a look at what quiet concessions are being offered behind the scenes as this power struggle plays out.

Another key theme is that many of these countries face the dilemma of how to integrate Islamists in the political system. Now, countries like Jordan have a better relationship with the Islamists in the opposition; there, they actually have the ability to participate in the political system, albeit not to the levels they want. In other countries — like Algeria, Syria and, of course, Egypt — these are the countries that continue to struggle with this Islamist dilemma.

One thing is clear to us: In Egypt, we did not see a popular revolution in the true sense of the word; what we saw was a carefully and thoughtfully managed succession by the military. In Algeria, you’re mostly seeing a power struggle play out. In places like Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain, you’re seeing opposition groups and tribes start to seize the opportunity to press for their demands, but they are still operating under great constraints, and, in many cases, they know their limits.

In other words, while this latest unrest is a wake-up call for many regimes in the region, we are not seeing a wave of revolutions spread throughout the region. And where you do see things flare up, like we might see in Algeria this coming Friday, you have to take a closer look at the political intrigue behind the demonstrations to really understand the true risk to the regime.

Notes: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

This article is republished with permission from STRATFOR.

For Stratfor's Full Coverage of Egypt's Unrest, click here

© 2011 STRATFOR. All rights reserved.

 

MIDDLE EAST BUSINESS COMMENT & ANALYSIS

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