Sunday, February 13, 2011

Next Stop Algeria

So what happens next in the Middle East?  Tough to say.   What has to be considered are the age demographics and distribution of wealth in each of the Arab nations.  The table below summarizes the Arab League members % of population under 25 and GDP per person.
Nation
Population (millions)
% population under 25
GDP/person
Egypt
85
52
5.9
Sudan
43
59
2.3
Algeria
36
48
8.2
Morocco
32
48
4.7
Iraq
31
61
4
Saudi Arabia
27
51
22.9
Yemen
24
65
2.9
Syria
23
55
4.7
Tunisia
10
42
8.6
Somalia
10
64
0.6
Libya
7
47
18.7
UAE
7
33
27.2
Jordan
6
54
5.2
Lebanon
4
43
13.4
Kuwait
4
38
40.6
Palestinian Territories
4
64
2.9
Mauritania
3
59
1.9
Oman
3
52
23.3
Qatar
2
34
66.9
Bahrain
1
44
24.0
Comoros
.7
57
1.1


When considering the population demographics and poverty level, the nations that could easily find themselves facing an Egypt style uprising include Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Mauritania, and Comoros.  Why?  Young people won’t stand for being poor and not having a future.  Nations such as Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, and the Palestinian Territories are either fledgling democracies or failed states.  The big oil producers Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Bahrain, band the UAE are not under threat because the level of wealth in these countries.  The middle group includes Syria, Jordan, and Morocco will face protests but are not in jeopardy of government overthrow.
How does this end?  Not sure, but here are a lot of things to consider:
1)      The US needs to realize that it is not the center of the earth and that it must be careful when it tries to exert influence the region.
2)      Watch out for Iran.  It has inserted itself into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, and thanks to WikiLeaks we know Egyptian officials were extremely agitated by Iranian interference .
3)      Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to reign in Israel’s far right wing led by Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party.  Israel must work towards the center and find a compromise with the Palestinian’s to diffuse the bomb.
4)      Look for Libya’s Qaddafi and Syria’s Assad to try and redirect internal protests by blaming everything on the Israelis.
5)      Did you notice the lack of ‘Death to Israel/USA’ chants and US/Israel flag burning in both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts?  This leads me to believe these uprisings were truly secular and not fueled by Islamic Fundamentalists.
6)      It is critical that Egypt’s military remain in control for as long as it takes to get the nation ready for fair elections (notice how afraid the US is afraid of free elections in this region).  This will give secular parties a chance to organize and keep the Muslin Brotherhood from dominating the new Parliament and cabinet.
7)      The US will have to change its policies regarding aid.  More money needs to be funneled through NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) and less through military channels.
8)      It is a good sign that Egypt’s military has agreed to honor the existing treaty with Israel.  Not a good sign that people are still showing up to protest.
9)      Keep an eye on protests in Iran scheduled for Monday.  Crowd size, governmental response, and the US response will be very important.
10)   Turkey, albeit a non-Arab country, could play a big role in making sure free and fair elections take place throughout the region.
So is this good or bad?  It’s good.  Democracy is a good thing and needs to be nurtured and nourished.  Nine women can’t give birth to a baby in one month.  Be patient.  Hopefully moderate Sunni nations can create a strong enough buffer to the rise of Shia Iran and not be consumed by internal strife.

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