Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Dec 5, 2011

First Anniversary of the Arab Spring Revolution

One year has passed since the Arab Spring Revolution was ignited in Tunisia in December 2010, and from there it spread, impacting in one way or another the rest of the Arab world.

Several corrupt regimes have been removed from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, the public protests are still going on in Syria, but ultimately the ruling regime will be removed. It is only a matter of time.

In Yemen, despite Ali Saleh’s resignation a week ago based on the Arab Gulf document, protestors are demanding that he be tried for crimes committed and corruption. This is despite the fact that the agreement he signed granted him immunity. His supporters, especially in the army, are still fighting his opponents in Taiz and other parts of Yemen. In Arab states that are under an absolute monarchy, such as Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, reforms have been minimal despite the impact of the Arab Spring Revolution.

In Jordan and Morocco, where the protestors are still calling for a constitutional monarchy. In Morocco, minimal reforms have been accomplished in the new constitution, which has led to the recent election (Nov. 2011). The Islamic Party (PJD) won 107 seats out of 395. It was also reported that less than 50% of the eligible voters (13 million) casted their votes (45%). Many political parties refused to participate in the election because their political demands were not met.

However, the new Moroccan constitution provided the prime minister more power to form his government, but the king still possesses a wide authority. The political reforms have been minimal and in reality they are a cosmetic type of reform, instead of being fundamental ones.

The political situation in Jordan is still as it was, despite the protestors uprising, which has not produced any significant changes, except for the resignation of Prime Minister M. al-Bakhit.

King Abdullah II asked A. Al-Khasawneh to form a new government in October. King Abdullah was unhappy about the slow political reforms.

The new government, under Prime Minister Al-Khasawneh, is still working with an established commission to add new reforms to the constitution, especially in connection to the election of parliament members. On Friday December 2nd, 2011, the protestors in Amman and other Jordanian cities were calling for government reforms and an end to corruption. How fast the new government will respond to the public’s demand is not clear. Nevertheless, the proposed constitutional reforms, if they take place, will be cosmetic ones and the king’s authority will continue as is. The monarch has asked for the resignation of the cabinet, to be replaced by a new one. This is a move to pacify the public.

Such political tactics have worked in the past. However, the public protestors, which have been going on, on and off, during the past eight months, will not lead to genuine political reform. The Jordanian population is divided in general. One segment consists of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who constitute a majority, and the second segment constitutes the original Jordanian population. The majority of the Jordanian segment are the major supporters of the king and they also possess more influence in the government and the military.

Nevertheless, the majority of the young protestors tend to come from both groups. How far their protest will go in influencing real political reforms is to be seen.

Saudi Arabia represents the third monarchy that is the most authoritarian and conservative regime in the Arab world. The Saudi royal family controls nearly all branches of the government and is strongly supported by the Wahabi Islamic religious group. This religious group is among the most conservative in the Islamic world.

However, to a certain extent, the Arab Spring Revolution began to influence the younger Saudi generation, who has been calling for more political freedom. The response from the Saudi authority has been harsh and ruthless, especially for the few who have tried to meet and protest.

Nevertheless, King Abdullah’s answer to the younger generation was financial handouts in various forms, especially to the unemployed and the poor. More than $130 billion has been allocated to the creation of new jobs, housing construction and salary increases for government employees.

Regardless of the government financial support, young Saudis are like other young Arabs who want freedom and political reform. A few demonstrations began in defiance of the government ban on protests, and many were arrested and put in jail.

Amnesty International has issued a report (Nov. 30, 2011) accusing the Saudi government of repression against the Arab Spring protestors because thousands of Saudis have been arrested.

Most of the protests took place in the Eastern part of the country, where the majority of the Shiaa minority is located. Saudi law bans national protests and those who have ignored the rules have been sent to jail to serve from five to thirty years. Insulting the integrity of the king carries a prison sentence of 10 years. Amnesty International claims “thousands of people are detained on terrorism related grounds.” (www.bbc.co, 12/1/2011).

The Shiaa minority, which constitutes 10% of the 19 million Saudi Arabian population, has always been a target of discrimination that dates back more than ten centuries. For that reason and others, they have been a target of detention by the government. Any demands for fairness and equality by members of the Shiaa group are viewed as an act of terror.

Amnesty International’s report stated that: The Saudi government has drafted an anti-terror law that would effectively criminalize dissent as a “terrorist crime” and allow extended detention without charge or trial.

Regardless of the ruthlessness of the Saudi regime and their suppression of the public at large in atmosphere absent of democracy, they will eventually face a public uprising. It is only a matter of time before such an uprising takes place. Living a politically closed society is no longer acceptable worldwide.

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