Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another round of updates

A full post will be coming tonight, but here’s another quick update that I threw together on the train this morning.

Jordan – I’ve passed over the Jordanian situation fairly quickly over the past few days, and I wanted to return to that (particularly in light of a conversation that I had on yesterday). Jordan’s situation is a rather unique one (perhaps echoes can be seen in Morocco and Oman – but Jordan doesn’t have Morocco’s population, Oman’s oil, or the prime coastal ports that both share) The country is a constitutional monarchy, and King Abdullah is not nearly as involved in the administrative aspects of governance as other monarchs might be. It is, of course, illegal to criticize the king in the media, but he and his wife are generally looked upon with love by their populace.

This can be seen in the give and take of yesterday’s events – There have been a few days of peaceful and relatively small (compared to Egypt and Tunisia) protests calling, not for the removal of the king, but for the removal of the Jordanian Prime Minister and cabinet, who were seen as not adequately concerned with the interests of the Jordanian people. The king, seeing an opportunity, exercised his royal authority and removed PM Samir Rifai. His new choice for PM is an interesting one. Outgoing PM Rifai got his position largely because of his status as an international businessman with good connections to powerful economic entities in the UAE and other gulf states – the hope was that he would be able to take measures to reduce the public debt and alleviate some of the economic challenges facing Jordan. Despite hopes to the contrary, his connections are generally not seen as having benefitted the general population. The new PM is of a different stripe, Maarouf Bakhit, a former Jordanian PM and former ambassador to Israel and Turkey, this should provide some small relief to Israel in the face of overwhelming uncertainty everywhere else. Bakhit has a reputation for wanting stronger ties to the Israeli state. Does the king see this an opportunity for more leverage with an Israel that sees its status quo reshuffling? Eh. I dunno.

Iran – As I said before, the way that the protests in Egypt have eclipsed the news from the rest of the Middle East has been frustrating for me. Iran, however, has been using its time away from the spotlight to execute a whole bunch of people (political prisoners). The otherwise expected (and justified) outrage has been diluted in the face of much more dramatic and newsworthy events to the west. The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia are, of course being watched closely by both the Iranian government and the Green Movement opposition, each of whom are spinning different narratives – the Green Movement is particularly heartened by the success of the Egyptian protestors, who they see as being at least somewhat inspired by their own less-successful actions in 2009. The government has been likening this to the Iranian ouster of the Shah in 1979, and claiming that it is Islamically inspired and motivated (not that anyone really believes them).

Yemen – Still uncertain. The president has said he isn’t going to run for another term. Protests keep getting bigger, but there is still no clear outcome. I’ll try and get to some deeper analysis later this week.

Egypt – Mubarak’s response: Mubarak’s most recent announcement was that he is not going to run for reelection at the end of the year. Not particularly satisfying to the several million people in the street. For Mubarak to stay in office until the fall elections (that he probably wasn’t going to be running in) would be a small victory on his part, and one that the Egyptians people are probably unwilling to grant him. It would also give him time to take measures to support his own people and some degree of regime perpetuation.


Interesting note: A timeline for protests has been floating around on twitter.  

@ewilke: Seriously, a timetable!? on twitter. The Arabic Revolution Timetable: Sudan #Jan30 Syria #Feb05 Algeria #Feb12 Libya #Feb30 Morocco #March13

Ambitious, and perhaps completely detached from reality, but who knows?

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