Monday, January 31, 2011

Situational Updates - what's going on where?

400+ pageviews in less than a week! Thanks to all of you who have been tuning in. The fact that people are checking out this site helps motivate me to keep writing, so please share this site with your friends and don't hesitate to give feedback.


First, a point of personal frustration – the Egypt issue certainly deserves attention, but it's sucking up almost all of the news right now. Given the limits of most foreign news agencies’ Middle East division, we certainly aren’t getting the wider picture. Al Jezeera is better than many, but with finite resources. I have little doubt that the germ of similar events is being carefully extinguished in many other countries while the world watches Egypt.

That being said, events in Syria have gotten some attention - Assad  has moved from the denial stage of the Kubler-Ross model to the bargaining stage. Two days ago the Syrian state media apparatus was claiming that the Egyptian protesters were calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador - part of the classic, “when in doubt, blame Israel” strategy that is so often the norm in the Islamic sections of the Mediterranean. Today his tune has changed and his attention has shifted to domestic affairs, claiming that Arab rulers need to do more to accommodate their people's rising political and economic aspirations. Assad's obvious intention here is to appease the Syrians before thousands of them end up in the streets. His strategy is probably a sound one - dispense visible (but limited) reforms, and do his best to distinguish himself from Mubarak. It may or may not work - I think it will for the time being (i.e. the next six to twelve months).

Yemen seems to be trying the same tactic, but they’re a day late (3-5 days, really) and a dollar short. I have far less faith in their ability to pull such a thing off, and I fear that there is ugliness and long-term instability in store for the country.

Meanwhile, back in Tunisia where this whole thing started, the two highest profile Tunisian opposition leaders returning from European exile show serious promise for a positive outcome for the country - Moncef Marzouki and Rashid Al-Ghannushi. It is, of course, still too soon to tell what the response will be. (I should probably just end every paragraph with that qualifier and be done with it.)

Events in Sudan since the partition vote have gotten…interesting (for lack of a better term). As the country seeks to resolve a procedural debate over to whether it was 98% or 95% that voted for partition, some protests are popping up in the north against President Omar al Bashir. It's a small factor right now (though it spurred some violent government reaction) but stay tuned…

So -Who aren’t we hearing about?

Libya and Morocco in particular have been awfully silent for the past few days. The King of Morocco is visiting France right now, which may or may not be  a coincidence - Morocco is hardly a police state and not really capable of an Egyptian-style media lockdown, and so the lack of protest buzz is probably not indicative of something more sinister. 

Libya, on the other hand, is locked down tighter than an off-color reference to batrachian anatomy. Ghaddafi, in a rare moment of discretion, has actually shut up, which speaks volumes about how serious his situation must be at this point. 

On that note, it’s never a good sign when Ghaddafi is exercising more tact and judiciousness than your own leaders – Israel, I’m looking at you.

Israel is doubling-down on the stupid. A conflict of opinions is to be expected - arguing politics is the national sport of Israelis, but a sense of panic has begun to seep into the editorial columns and blogs. The Israeli government has been telling their diplomats to pull for Hosni in their host countries. "We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak” they were told on Friday. A comment like this reeks of either denial or idiocy (or both…it can always be both).
  • They’re not doing Mubarak any favors by pulling for him.
  • They’re not doing themselves any good by hitching their wagon to a dying donkey.
Oh well…if the Israeli government wants my advice I’m sure they can figure out how to get a hold of me.

On that note, one more state has formally recognized Palestinian statehood within the ’67 borders, and this time it’s not a random South American country. Cyprus, one of the most popular Israeli vacation destinations in the world, sent Abbas a letter of recognition today. Frankly, if Abbas can keep pulling these in he may survive the fallout from the al Jazeera leaks.


Well, that's it for now, I'm sure tomorrow will bring new revelations. Stay tuned for a piece on the Muslim Brotherhood and Part Two of my piece on Self-Immolation in the next few days - maybe tomorrow, if the snow cancels my other plans.


  1. Wow! I didn't know you were writing here. I'm definitely going to follow. I'm sure I'll learn a lot! :)

    If you were to fiddle with your settings, I could comment with my url instead of with the google account (pretty please?).

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Rebekah, I have adjusted the settings accordingly.

  3. I feel like Israel wasn't so stupid, at least at first. They made their pleas before much of the rest of the world had commented, so they couldn't really know how irrelevant their opinion was. I think supporting Mubarak may have originally been meant to show other Arab leaders that they weren't going to try and encourage civil unrest in Arab countries.

    Looking back at it now it turns out not to be the best move, but I don't think it was a lazy and tactless decision. I do look forward to your views on Jordan's actions though, from Fark you seemed to be pretty well informed! I look forward to following your blog.