Okay, that may be the lamest name for a post ever, but I’m sticking with it. Tonight, President Obama went before a divided Congress and gave his third State of the Union Address, although his first was technically an “Economic Address.” So naturally, I’m going to write about events unfolding in the Middle East.
I’m not an expert in the region, by any stretch of the imagination, and as the events I’m writing about are not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Iran, I’m even less informed. So please consider that a disclaimer.
If you watch American news, you may have heard of something called The Jasmine Revolution. The Jasmine Revolution took place in Tunisia last week, when the people basically rejected the official version of election results and deposed their long-time, corrupt, autocratic leader. That situation is still developing, but a shaky power sharing arrangement is keeping things relatively stable.
Well, Egyptians have taken the Tunisian example to heart and have turned out in droves seeking to depose the Hosni Mubarek goverment. The Mubarek regime has been in place for around 30 years and is also considered corrupt and oppressive. Both governments are friendly to Western governments.
Then there’s Lebanon. I’m really uncertain what’s going on there, but a parliamentary shakeup over the investigation into the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri catapulted a Hezbollah-backed PM into office. This has sparked protest because the people believe that the investigation is now likely to be shut down to protect Hezbollah. If you’re confused on this one, so am I. It’s not my main focus anyway. Neither are demonstrations in Jordan and Yemen.
Nope, Egypt is the main event. If Mubarek falls, the it’s not inconceivable that the other revolutions will be emboldened to topple governments all over the Middle East.
Here’s what’s really fascinating about these revolutions. They’re not anti-Israel. They’re not anti-American. They’re not even Islamist. In fact, it would seem that the religious opposition factions are deliberately staying on the sidelines, at least in Egypt. The revolutions are about domestic economics and corruption. They’re about the standard of living in these countries.
So what does it mean to us? Well, I don’t know, but something about this feels like that autumn of 1989 when the Eastern Bloc shed communism. What would it mean for friendly governments to fall? In 1989, there was a bipolar system. For the Eastern Bloc to throw off Communism would mean for those countries to run toward the West. So what happens when a friendly Arab government falls, especially when it’s an populist rather than religious revolution? They’re not specifically running from the West, and they’re not specifically running toward Iranian or Saudi style theocracy. More disturbingly, what happens if Mubarek falls and Israel finds itself with an unstable revolutionary government on a border previously secured by it’s partner in the Camp David Accords?
I wish I had more answers, or more knowledge with which to analyze these event, but I don’t. All I know is that if this continues, the events taking place throughout the Middle East could prove to be very important.
The Guardian did some pretty good blogging on these events today.