Senate Revolution in the Muslim World

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Lowbacca_1977, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    We'll soon see how interested the Egyptian military is in dismantling the police state and supporting a fast track toward free elections. I don't think things will go as well for the people if Egyptian protesters are pitted directly against the military without Mubarak as a buffer.

    Again, Egypt's fundamental problem was not Mubarak and a lack of democracy. Mubarak did a better job than the U.S. has ever done in ensuring a relatively equitable distribution of national wealth. I want to see an equitable distribution of power along with wealth in Egypt as much as anyone, but in terms of improving the basic quality of life for Egyptians, I don't see much of an opportunity here.

    -This year Egypt joins Britain and Indonesia among the ranks of former oil exporters that have now become oil importers over the last decade. One important source of national revenue is gone, and indeed Egyptians will have to find a way to import more and more of their petroleum over the next five years in a likely atmosphere of increasing oil prices. Given Egypt's faltering ability to supply its own energy needs, the prospects for putting all those disaffected, unemployed young Egyptians to work are slim.

    -It was wheat prices and food price inflation that launched political protests across North Africa. In Egypt, a population of 80 million in a country that once struggled to feed 30 million means that Egypt will continue to import half or more of its food in perpetuity. This is a major national security threat for all Egyptians. Grain prices are likely to remain high for another 6 months to a year at least, and with the Chinese drought, wheat prices could potentially double again this year. More governments will face protests before this is all over.

    -Egypt/Israeli relations could fall apart quickly in the aftermath of Mubarak's departure. Mubarak's fall may well spark another change of government in Israel before long. The more Israel feels threatened by potential instability of its neighbors, the more likely it is to double down on repression of Palestinians.
  2. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

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    I'm still trying to figure out why you're pinning this all on environmental issues rather than a dictatorial government. It's almost insulting to think that, no, it wasn't an oppressive government that made people rebel; it was the environment. I'm not trying to downplay the influences it may have had, but really...it seems odd to pin it on those reasons alone. It's also amusing when you consider that the regular military (not the officers, mind you) were IIRC only paid .20¢ a month or so. Yeah, the oil running out sure did topple that government. Not the fact that they treated their citizens like crap.
  3. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Well, when times are good, people look past the problems in the government. When times are bad, they get angry. It is worth noting that economic pressures pushed this, and people have said that for a while, Mubarak stayed in power because people felt putting up with him was a worthy trade off. The workers strikes, for example, are certainly tied to economics and not politics, and those helped to bring down Mubarak. The environmental issues may be more triggers for a larger problem, although it's also worth remembering, in that sense, that the biggest trigger was Tunisia, which let people in Egypt think that if Tunisia could do it, so could they.
  4. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

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    Israel's just being hysterical as always. Are they seriously going to oppose democracy in the Middle East now that it actually has a chance to take root? Wasn't the whole spread-democracy-to-the-Middle-East one of Zionism's lofty goals to begin with? (Not that Israel's been setting a great example.) Israel just doesn't get it. They're too locked up in their "world is persecuting Jews" mentality to see that this is the opportunity we've been waiting for to establish real legitimate governments in the Arab world, to show that we're not just propping up imperial puppets, to show the Ahmahdinejads of the world that they're wrong and that we're the good guys not because we say we are, but because we actually are the good guys.

    Mubarak was a liability in the long run, he needed to go. Sure Egypt is unstable for the moment, but is there really any sign that the old hostilities will rise up again? The Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence, and they're not even going to be a majority in a new government (a government which will have every incentive to maintain the peace treaty and good relations with the US). In fact, it was Arab dictators who used the "war with Israel" card back in 1967 and 1973 to distract their populations from their own corrupt rule.
  5. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Twitter just started trending heavily that protests are now underway in Algeria. Hundreds apparently arrested and ten thousand are protesting in the capital, with 35,000 police positioned in the capital, which has an urban population of 2 million. Al-Jazeera story is here; Algeria's president has already said that there would be an end to the 19-year-long state of emergency and allow democratic marches.

    In Bahrain,the government is offering concessions ahead of protests that are being called for this coming week.

    According to Twitter, there's also calls for a protest in Morocco on the 20th, and in Algeria tear gas is being used on protesters, and there are also protests now in the second largest city in the country, Oran/Warhan.
  6. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

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    Unfortunately I'm not certain popular revolution is advisable everywhere in the Islamic world. I think fears of an Islamic state in Tunisia are unfounded, and on in Egypt as rather unlikely.

    But when you start getting into the south Arabian peninsula, -- Saudi Arabia, etc. -- the less a revolution seems like a good idea.
  7. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    I'd say Yemen is the big one where that's a concern. The protests are present, and Al Queda, if not greater fundamentalism, has taken root there. The interest in propping up Egypt was for better relations with Israel, but Yemen is much more about terrorist threats in that area.
  8. Vader_vs_Maul Force Ghost

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    I'd say North-Africa as a whole is safe. Bahrain also has a relatively liberal and modern population, considering it's neighbours. And that is because it has mainly been a multi-cultural sea-port and trading hub for centuries, with Indians living there for centuries, having their own Hindu temples on the islands, Iranian aristocratic families building wealth from trade have settled down there for over 100 years and the population is a mix of approximately 2:1 Shia/Sunni. They have a long history of living with diversity, which in itself has a tendency to moderate and liberalize people's attitudes. I'm not sure what the grievances of the people of Bahrain are exactly, but I'd say that for the rest of the peninsula, except Yemen, people are at the moment too comfortable financially to bother protesting for political freedoms. North of the peninsula though, Jordan and Syria might see demonstrations.
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Decades of repression and Al Jazeera and social media were the fuels, but the spark that ignited protests in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt was food price inflation and unemployment. In the wake of the protests, one of the first responses of Saudi Arabia and Algeria was to make massive wheat purchases from U.S. exporters.

    Years of food and petroleum subsidies have also helped fuel population growth in the MENA countries. Now that Egypt is no longer exporting significant quantities of oil, they are unable to subsidize petroleum and have fewer resources for subsidizing bread, more than half of which they have to import from abroad.

    Saudi Arabia is scrambling to maintain its oil export revenue by trying to wean its population of petroleum subsidies. We've seen how Iran has faced this issue as well. Saudi Arabia is considering following in Iran's footsteps and undertaking a massive civilian nuclear power program so that it can stop burning oil domestically to generate electricity. Without such steps, growing Saudi domestic oil demand will consume all its oil production within a few short decades.

    The Saudi and Iranian regimes are unlikely to survive the end of oil export revenue. Coincidentally, the Mubarak regime was unable to survive the end of Egypt's status as an oil exporter. I say coincidental because food price inflation/unemployment were by far the overriding factors here.
  10. Ghost Chosen One

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    Isn't Saudi Arabia already highly theocratic?

    But do terrorists have the support of the people or any main opposition parties in Yemen?

    Agreed.

    It's no surprise that Biden openly called for the Iranian government to let protests resume in Tehran yesterday.

    I sent you that article about one of the Wikileaks diplomatic cable where an ambassador of Saudi Arabia said they could hit peak oil around 2012, which is only next year. How many years after the peak do you think Saudi Arabia will have until it can no longer export because of growing domestic consumption, like what happened with Egypt? When did Egypt hit its peak? That could give us some idea.
  11. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    I'm going to disagree here... at least on Egypt. Spent a few hours last night watch Al-Jazeera as they're showing features about how the Egyptian protests happened and talking to people about it, and the protests that got the ball rolling in Egypt were annual protests over police brutality that spread via Facebook, and gained large momentum because the idea of removing the government had become much more real after Tunisia. I'd say the sparks for Egypt were the success in Tunisia, and the grassroots organisation that had been set up by young Egyptians that had already been protesting and using the internet for communication between both themselves and the rest of the world that had a very well timed protest already planned. It tapped into economic frustrations as well as political frustrations, certainly, and that was the fuel that brought the protests to huge numbers of Egyptians that might not have been otherwise political, but food prices weren't a spark, I don't think, in this case. I've heard very little about Egypt discussing that, the unemployment is a much larger issue but that wasn't a spark, it's been a long standing problem.



    I'm just saying it's a different dynamic, I don't necessarily think that it means they'll rise to power, but it's a more legitimate concern there than it's been in Egypt or Tunisia.
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Of the MENA countries, Qatar stands alone at the top in terms of per capita GDP (PPP), followed by UAE and Kuwait. I think you can pretty much rule out in the short term any possibility of popular uprising in these countries if wealth and political complacency are fellow travelers.

    In the next per capita GDP tier we have Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia produces more oil than Iran, Kuwait and the UAE combined, so although it has an unemployment rate comparable to that of Egypt and Algeria, it has by far the most resources to throw at the problem of maintaining stability.

    In the next lower per capita GDP tier we have Iran, Libya and Lebanon. In two of those we have seen a fair amount of unrest, Lebanon being a special case of more of less permanent instability due in part to all the direct interference from its "neighbors." Iran is a significant oil exporter with the state of course controlling the revenue it produces, so like the Saudis they have plenty of resources to devote to their police state.

    Tightly grouped near the bottom in the fourth quintile of per capita GDP: Tunisia, Algeria and Syria, with Morocco straddling the border between the fourth and lowest group.

    Here is a group where the average income is low enough that the food price inflation seen this year alone has been devastating, with limited government resources for protecting people from price increases. Discounting the immediate, pressing impact of food price inflation even in Egypt would I think be a mistake although Low I agree with you about the effect of people in Egypt watching events unfold in Algeria and Tunisia on Al Jazeera and communicating through Facebook, etc. There was a confluence of events. Over the last three or four years, Egypt has suffered a much higher inflation rate overall than Tunisia or Algeria, and I think it's safe to suggest that inflation and unemployment have been chipping away at Egyptian political stability since before the food price peaks of 2008. The 2010 price peak would have to be a motivator though, if history is a guide.

  13. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

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    Still embarrassed?
  14. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

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    Isn't Saudi Arabia already highly theocratic?

    It's not really theocratic per se, but the difference there is that the people tend to be more extreme than their own government, I think. Not all of course, but there is, I think, a distinct cultural rift in the Middle East between the states of North Africa and the Fertile Crescent and those of the southern Arab Peninsula. And in the case of the latter, dealing with the population really is more volitile.

    As for what we might see to come, I'm not sure we're going to see anything major very soon. If we do it will probably be in West North Africa: Algeria and Morrocco. Wacky Quadaffi's got too much of a grip on his state, and the same goes for Syria. And the people of Jordan are frustrated, but it doesn't look like they really want to overthrow King Hussein.

    But this is going to affect things for years, and all these states need to look to what's happening: only Turkey really doesn't have to be concerned about this. Even in Syria and Libya, Assad and Quadaffi have to start considering that their governments are probably not going to survive another generation.

    By and large, this is probably all good for those of us in Western countries. Although you get some issues in Algeria and Egypt, by and large I don't think the West really needs to be concerned about protests and unrest breaking out over that entire strip. It's the Peninsula and southern Africa you need to be more worried about.
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    To add to that post above, I meant to include Jordan and Egypt in the second lowest group of per capita GDP. Jordan is interesting as one of the region's non oil producers with a successful, growing economy.

    At the very bottom quintile we have Iraq (at the top of this group), Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania. In a better world, Iraq wouldn't be here. A potentially stronger oil exporter than it is, the per capita income of Iraqis was halved by UN sanctions and halved again by the U.S. invasion and occupation.
  16. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

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    It seems crass to suggest this, but with all the death and disruption caused by the war, it is possible that since it has "saved" its oil in the ground they will be depleted later, so the combination of lower overall population and the higher price of oil later might actually mean they get greater per capital oil revenue over the long term. Obviously that doesn't make up for the loss of human capital and time, so overall revenue is hurt. But it probably is a benefit to the world oil market in that it helped raise prices now, and will provide more supply later than it otherwise would have. I know how morally reprehensible it is to find the silver lining in an tragedy of epic proportions, but if it is any comfort, the benefits of this oil will largely go to the Chinese, and the US won't make up the cost.
  17. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

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    ....are you talking about the protests?

    Because if you are, the entire thing lasted three weeks, hardly enough time to make a difference in the supply of oil at a later date.

    As for the rest of the statement :rolleyes:
  18. Ghost Chosen One

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    I think Espy was responding to Jabbadabbado's last point about Iraq.
  19. JediRaanic Jedi Master

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  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Bahrain security forces dispersed protesters today. On a per capita basis, Bahrain is one of the richer MENA countries, and according to NYT today, "The king announced that the state was giving every Bahraini family the equivalent of $2,700 in cash."

    If the government of Bahrain could be toppled, then I think the Saudis would really have something to worry about, although Bahrain has its own unique set of social and political problems.
  21. Mr44 VIP

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    As you hinted at though, the house of Saud has the force of religious representation behind it, which is lacking in the other governments mentioned. For the government of Saudi Arabia to be toppled, it would take MASSIVE input from Iran, as well as a huge shift in the allegiance of the population.

    However, what is clear from a foreign relations standpoint, is that garnering favor with Saudi Arabia takes on a larger importance, which is going to be interesting to see how it plays out.
  22. Violent Violet Menace Force Ghost

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    Well. Today has been a dramatic day in Iran. Algeria and Bahrain as well, but the most dangerous one, I think, is Iran. The Iranian regime is itself born out of a revolution. It knows all the ins and outs of how they work, what to look out for, how to avoid certain revolutionary tactics and so forth.

    Case in point:
    1) The revolution of 79 succeeded because eventually, the military, who were conscripts, and still are, declared themselves neutral and disobeyed command.
    Solution: The Islamic Republic (IRI) never uses the regular conscription forces domestically. After the revolution, it quickly created the Revolutionary Guard. An elite force of about 150 000 who are loyal to the ideology of the regime, although there are some conscripts there too in recent years. In addition to them, the Basiji paramilitary force in plain clothes is of unknown quantity and consists both of loyalist informants and desperate street thugs bought with bribes.

    2) One of the tactics of the revolution against the Shah was strikes.
    Solution: The government and Revolutionary Guard own most major industries and sources of government income. They have ownership in so many companies and sectors of the economy that it will take a very very long time of strikes before they are affected.

    3) In 78 and 79, the Iranian people would gather in the mosques to discuss strategy.
    Solution: This government IS the mosques.


    Plus, it is motivated by religious ideology, which means the people in power will probably stay in their chairs until someone comes in to the very room they're in and knocks their chair over.
  23. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

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    I'm not sure about the Iranian regime knowing the "ins and outs" of Revolution makes that much of a difference. If it does it only means that they know a few rules that are born more from common sense:

    1) You must have a capable military.

    2) You must have a loyal military.

    3) You must be willing to shed blood and, possibly, take a significant economic hit.


    No secrets, really.

    Plus, it is motivated by religious ideology, which means the people in power will probably stay in their chairs until someone comes in to the very room they're in and knocks their chair over.

    The West has been tied for a long time as to what to do with Iran or anything else in the Middle East because you couldn't ask for more alienated Democratic representatives: seriously, if you want the Arab world to value what you say, having the Israelis and the Turks as your model states in the region is not an ideal situation since they hate the former for the creation of Israel and the attempts beforehand from about 1920-present, and the Turks for ruling the region with an Iron fist for just about everything before that. It's not like French and British colonial administration had them jumping for joy, either.

    So considering Washington had to spend 46 of the past 66 years with its foreign policy hamstrung on the question of the Soviet Union rather than the global pursuit of Democracy, it can be understandable that the status quo has been to do nothing. For most of that time whatever the US did, if it backfired, there was somebody right there to reap the reward. And now because of that collective history the sentiment is, not incorrect, that whatever you do will be suspect to all but the most direct beneficiaries.

    It's not going to change either until real Islamic Democratic representation is set up that's not laden with Ottoman history, either. We might have a beach-head developing now, but it's going to be at LEAST another 2 years before that's ready to go. Until the West at least has that sort of voice to share its concerns, we don't have a very good avenue to give voice to calling BS on Iran in the Muslim street... or frankly, calling it on any other Arab government.
  24. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    I'm often a critic of U.S. foreign policy, but in the case of Egypt I honestly believe that the U.S. relationship with the Egyptian military was one of the primary factors that prevented Egyptian protesters from suffering a bloodbath. The U.S. is the Egyptian military's sugar daddy, and the military was more than willing to offer up Mubarak as a sacrificial goat in order to preserve that special relationship.

    Where a MENA country has no high end western backer, it's tear gas and rubber bullets, just for starters, possibly followed by disappearances into police state torture dungeons and public hangings, and so on.

    Saudi Arabia is a special case, as the U.S. and the Saudis have an extra special special relationship with an understanding that stability of world oil markets depends on survival of the current regime. No one knows what would happen if the Saudi royal family loses control, and no one wants to find out. Not that there's any imminent danger of that happening.*

    Yemen on the other hand could easily be the next most likely country to see a regime change in the short term.


    So, there was civil war between 1962-1970, years of conflict leading to the 1990 unification, and another civil war in 1994.

    Current protests in Yemen are more or less a continuum of a half century of instability.

    Today in Yemen:
    In Yemen, riot police and government backers fought with anti-government demonstrators as protesters marched toward the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, Tuesday, leaving a number of protesters hurt, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported.

    Witnesses said about 500 police officers and government supporters armed with batons and knives drove back about 1,000 anti-government demonstrators.


    *Although, see the WSJ article today: The Saudi royal family is corrupt, infirm, increasingly criticized in social media?and about to face a delicate, perhaps divisive succession process.
    Hopefully we won't see The War of 7,000 Saudi Princes for control of the regime after the death of Prince Naif.




  25. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

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    Hopefully we won't see The War of 7,000 Saudi Princes for control of the regime after the death of Prince Naif.

    That's not so scary until you realize the Chinese, the Russians and the Americans will all potentially back a different family. And that the Russians will probably play the part of kingmaker in that regard.

    The way the Middle East is going, I wouldn't worry about this if we were assured the major powers would not take an interest... you know, like China claims it doesn't. But they won't, of course, and with this situation the question of the next monarch of Saudi Arabia could turn into the War of Spanish Succession, Part II.