The Gulf Exception

Article Summary
Undeniably, the Arab Spring has brought change to the Middle East, with as many stories of failure as success: The Libyan streets are being held hostage to armed gunmen and Syria is in crisis. But the Gulf monarchies have remained largely untouched by the revolutionary fervor of 2012, due to pervasive security fears and minimal reforms, writes Khalifah Rashid al-Shaali.

Al-Khaleej is known for its analysis on the multitude of events taking place [across the Arab world]. Developments in Egypt and Syria are still ongoing, while in Yemen [important events] seem to appear and disappear based on prevailing circumstances. Tunisia is no longer the center of discussion. Its people succeeded in being the first [to overthrow their tyrannical regime] and deserve the honor of being named originators of the revolution; they achieved [their revolution’s] goals through consensus and with the smallest number of casualties. The Libyan transition, on the other hand, remains hostage to the armed groups roaming the streets of Tripoli while other cities are still under the control [of competing rebel groups].

It is not surprising that events in other parts of the Arab World have largely avoided the limelight. Politics in Algeria hang in the balance of a pseudo agreement between political parties and the people on one side, and the government and army on the other. Meanwhile, the situation in Morocco has calmed following an important popular representative’s ascent to power [Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane]. [Other Moroccan] parties are simply waiting for things to play out while the Moroccan citizenry is left to observe the workings of this new unique duet between the monarchy and the newly installed government. [The Moroccan citizenry is waiting to form its opinion on] the new rulers’ ability to overcome the great difficulties [facing Morocco]: Inflation, unemployment and low wages. [Moroccans are waiting to discover how the government] will improve the quality of public services, and what its response will be to [the people’s] demands for social justice, liberty and human dignity. [In short, Moroccans] are awaiting proof of [their rulers] ability to lead society and the state into the realm of modernity.

The region surrounding Egypt and Syria remains eager for the situation in Syria to become more clear. The region is concurrently being influenced by and trying to influence developments taking place [in Syria]. Jordan’s position is not desirable: The situation has recently deteriorated in the neighboring Syrian province of the Houran Plains. These plains are populated by a clan that also has a sizable population in Jordan, and the sound of gunfire in the North can be clearly heard in the south of the valley [across the border]. Nevertheless, the loudest sound in Jordan remains that of protesters demanding reform and the implementation of anti-corruption measures.

The [revolutionary] events taking place in certain Arab countries continue to be noticeably absent in the Gulf, but there are several reasons why the security situation there remains relatively under control. The first reason lies in the conviction held by many Gulf citizens that their regimes did not commit brutality or unleash their security agencies and armies against their people, as did several other Arab governments. In addition, the peoples of these countries are in relative accordance with their regimes and actively communicate with them through a variety of traditional channels that cater to both citizens and immigrants. [These channels have allowed] them to become partners in the process of exchanging ideas and conducting the affairs of their societies’. Furthermore their societies are blessed with a degree of affluence and security that the population seeks to maintain even if it means making concessions on modern or Western forms of democratic participation.

Another principal reason behind the stability of Gulf societies is the fear of foreign intervention as embodied by Iranian expansionist attempts. [Iran’s] aggressions take on an ethnic dimension which no true Gulf citizen can accept. [In general however], Gulf inhabitants fear the violence and destruction that have followed demonstrations calling for processes of change in other Arab societies.

Found in: political participation in the gulf, gulf monarchies, gulf, government reform, government, gcc, democratic reform, democracy in the gulf, democracy, benkirane, arab spring, arab

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