A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Spreading Winter of Discontent

With unrest simultaneously in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Iran, still simmering in Algeria and starting to stir in Iraq, it is almost amusing to watch how the international news agencies find themselves trying to cover all the bases. Certainly a single blogger can't cover it all. I've primarily specialized in Egypt and know Tunisia pretty well, so paid a lot of attention to those dramas. But I can't cover them all. Even the networks are stretching thin. And I do have a Journal to edit.

As I've said before on this blog, even those of us getting calls to explain it all are at a loss; everything we've learned about the region has been turned on its head. We really don't know what's going to happen, even in Tunisia and Egypt where the old leaders have already fallen. Forty years of experience and I find myself as unsure of the future as the newest student in the field.

I do, however, think it is important to keep the national differences in mind, as well as the potential consequences. We've seen the unrest in autocratic republics (beginning with Tunisia and Egypt), monarchies (Bahrain and Jordan), and a Jamahiriya (Libya's self-proclaimed system); in a wide range of Sunni countries but also in Shi‘ite Iran and mixed Sunni-Shi‘a Bahrain and Iraq. Oil states (Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain) and non-oil states have been hit.

Nor are the consequences the same across the board. These revolutions and uprisings are not about the United States and the US has limited ability to control events. But the US would welcome a change of regime in Iran and probably not mourn too much a change in Libya, while Bahrain might be another matter, since the US Fifth fleet is based there.

And I suspect the roller-coaster ride is just beginning.

1 comment:

The Familiar Strange said...

It certainly is draining to try and follow it all and it shows no signs of slacking. I put a bit of a follow-up on my page this morning -


Keep it up!