Thursday, February 03, 2011

It Ain't Over...Microdots Exciting New Domino Game

So, as Omar Suleiman is speaking as I write, trying to present a public face of calm and reason, much of the press coverage of the unrest in Cairo and other Egyptian cities has been totally suppressed. Reporters have been detained and assaulted. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq apologized for the violent incidents yesterday and is telling us to look the other way as the violent suppression of the protests continues by armed gangs of government sponsored thugs.
Suleiman is asking for calm as his tattered shards of respectability need time to be resewn together and his military protect their investments. The USA has given 45 billion to the Egyptian Military and much of it has gone to their program of control of Egypts banks and industry.
As far as I can see, the thread bare sheet of respectability will never be repaired. The protestors can be massacred and starved out of the Al Taheer Square, but the door to inevitable change has been torn off of it hinges.
Things will never be the same for :

1. Xi Jinping in China. He is the heir apparent to Hu Jiantao. A princeling who has risen up through family connections and must be wondering how he can keep a country that is no stranger to mass protests and has a newly enriched and educated class who have strangely not been able to get any results from their computer search engines this week when they enter the word Egypt.

2. Than Shwe, Top dog in the band formerly known as SLORC has just announced he is not seeking the presidency in Myanmar. But he is expected to remain in charge. Is he not seeking the high-profile job because he doesn't want to disclose too much about his finances as some have speculated? Or is it that he doesn't want any more of a target on his forehead than necessary when that country's democracy movement gains enough momentum to finally bring an end to his regime? Is his hesitance a deft political move or a sign of concern? In either case, this is a junta that knows for whom those metaphorical bells may be tolling in Cairo. 

3.  Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan who might not fit any definition of a dictator, but he is on this list because he is so weak that every time a small group gathers for a cup of tea and a chat about politics (or the weather) in the streets of Islamabad or Lahore, he must wonder if it is the beginning of the political movement that will spell the end to his career. Right now, he has the advantage of some important military and international support, but there is no one close to him that has not spent considerable time devising a good Plan B for the day after he leaves (or is removed from) office.

4. Bashar  Assad, of Syria, who came to power the old fashioned way, he inherited it from his father.Looking around him (and up and down this list), he too must be wondering if that was a mixed blessing … especially as he considers how to respond to calls from Syrian opposition groups to make Friday a "day of rage" in Damascus, emulating precisely the Egyptian and Tunisian formulas. In a move no doubt envied by parents around the world, his government has long maintained a ban on Facebook, but with other social networking options proliferating, it is unclear whether he can use old dictatorial tools to keep a lid on a newly connected, more openly communicative citizenry.

5. Muammar al-Qaddafi, The Libyan superstar, who is one revolutionary leader who is no fan of wannabe rabble-rouser Julian Assange. WikiLeaks revelations of Qaddafi's excesses and his fondness for buxom East European nurses have raised questions about whether he will bring this storm that started in North Africa to another destination in the greater Maghreb. The U.N. and the rest of us might miss his flamboyantly deranged speeches, but it is clear many closer to home in the downtown Tripoli area would not. And that's why he is among those watching so closely to see which way the winds are blowing from Tahreer Square.

6. King Abdullah, the rich old fat king of Saudi Arabia,You would think these things would be of some comfort in the current situation. But with an extended royal family numbering in the thousands, he is feeling the pressure as many wonder whether the succession-related turbulence many have predicted for years is accelerated by the mob scenes in Cairo and Tunis. Saudis confidently proclaim their situation is different, that they have more resources and thus a happier populace -- and there is no minimizing the fact that Egyptian unrest pushing up oil prices actually strengthens them in some way. But this is a regime that has shamefully neglected the welfare of masses of its people and has played with fire while nurturing extremists. It may be more fragile than it looks.

7. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, need we mention Iran...? He has seen this movie before. In fact, the last time it played, he was the villain and young Neda was the tragic star. With a cosmopolitan population eager for reform, a national tradition of uprisings, and a divided government in which he does not necessarily have the full support of all the powers that be, the world's foremost windbreaker model can't help but be nervously wondering when "Green Revolution: The Sequel" starts playing in Tehran and in cineplexes across Iran.

8. Ali Abdellah Saleh, of Yemen, who has already blinked, nervously renouncing any aspirations to seek another term in office. Yemen has already seen street marches, and the country is a hotbed of extremist groups, like al Qaeda, that like to express themselves somewhat more colorfully than with banners and chants. Topping everyone's list of desert nations most likely to become a failed state, Yemen is holding its breath today.

9. King Abdullah of Jordan, also made political moves designed to forestall questions about how much longer an overprivileged over-Westernized family from a minority segment of Jordan's population can continue to cling to a throne that was pulled directly out of Britain's post-imperial goody bag. Abdullah and his wife Rania are so popular in the West, so articulate, so sophisticated that it has proved too easy for their allies to enjoy cocktails and avoid the issue of pushing hard enough on long-overdue political reforms. Strategically vital, attracting the attentions of Iran's surrogates, already rattled by Palestinian politics to its west and Iraqi politics to its east, Jordan is the country after Egypt where the likelihood of change and the uncertainty of its implications are producing the most worldwide anxiety.

10. Bibi Netanyahu, the Brooklyn born Prime Minister of Israel, who seems to be having what Queen Elizabeth II might call a terrible, horrible, annum horribilis. You'd think that the region's only democracy would embrace the stirrings of people power on its borders. But with Egypt's direction uncertain and its peace with Israel at risk, that alone should make Netanyahu uneasy. Add to that the Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, risks of uprisings in Jordan, the way these uprisings have distracted from efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program, and the potential further shift in global sympathies that might follow moves toward democracy among several Arab states, and Bibi faces a potentially seismic shift in Israel's strategic position unequaled in nearly a half-century. As one worried, smart, well-known Israel-watcher said to me the other day, "They shouldn't have located Israel in the Middle East. Too dangerous. They should have put it in the Middle … West." For sure, if Kansas and Nebraska were his neighbors, Bibi Netanyahu would be a much more relaxed man today.
It ain't over, by a long shot.....


mud_rake said...

The ubiquitous domino theory, indeed. Good list but there are some more durable pieces in that set-up. They are tougher to topple for many reasons, one of which is the timidity of the citizens of the nation who are unaccustomed to having power.

As you say, it ain't over.

squatlo said...

Very succinct compilation of hot spots. I would think China's regime is the least likely scene of an uprising in the near future, simply because their culture is so submissive to their government. Yet, I think change will come to China, eventually, and possibly through a gradual democracy movement from within, looking for a more capitalistic model in the end.
Pakistan's regime is my biggest concern, especially if the dominoes start to topple around Pakistan. Nuclear armed militants ought to concern us all...

lizzie said...

Yes worrying times for so many seeking to annihilate dissent - but so so far to go as protesters continue to pay the price. Today on radio heard a fascinating interview with David Schenker - director of Arab politics program at the Washington Institute - who suggests that Egypt may be approaching its Tiananmen moment -
Full text or audio are available at

microdot said...

Squatio, I spent a few weeks working with a young Chinese girl, who was a college student doing a stage learning about French Wine and the Restaurant business here. I have to give her credit, she worked with me on the Vendange Vert in the middle of the summer. Her biggest concern was the fear of getting a tan, because that is an anathema in upper class Chinese society.
She showed me the Chinese internet and how she got around it, because she had brought her personal lap top[ to stay connected with her friends and though she was using a French connection for her service, her computer was set up for use in China.
She was so westernized. She was totally West Coast LA Valley Girl. Fuchan style. She spoke better American LA English with a real accent than French, I found myself more than willing to be her personal interpreter.
This post wasn't so much about revolution, than regime change. I think that the near future of China is a case of real flux. Business as usual? I don't think so. You just have to pay attention to the internal dissent occurring daily in China to get a hint that things are not any where as coherent as the Chinese government might want to lead you to believe.

irisclara said...

My boyfriend and I have wondered for a while why the Holy Rollers in Texas who want to bring the End Times don't offer some land down there to Israel. They'd fit right in! Too many guns, conservative religion, a border to be uptight about, what more could a Jewish settler want? They could try annexing Juarez.