Sunday, March 27, 2011

On The Troubles in the Middle East and North Africa

I'm sure some people have thought that, with all of the issues in the Middle East occurring recently, why am I not covering it more in my blog? Unrest in Bahrain, Syria, war in Libya, overthrow of governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and here I am discussing educational standards and marks on a recent test. Isn't there bigger things happening around me?

Sure there are but you know what, I don't really know much about it. Touring the old city of Damascus for a few days does not exactly make me an expert on Syrian politics, and a few business trips in Bahrain has not given me detailed firsthand knowledge of Shia - Sunni relations. I chat about the issue sometimes with my Qatari friends but with the exception of Bahrain they have about as much experience in these countries as I do.

My observations have been straightforward and rudimentary, countries where there is significant poverty, oppression, or both are typically where you see the most unrest and problems. The wealthier countries like Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar have had fewer to no problems. Interest in the Middle East has made the media jump on anything that smacks of protest against a country's government, whereas in the grand scale of things the protest might not be significant. A few hundred people protesting in one country is not a "revolution", and yet no one sees the hundreds of thousands of protesters in London as signifying a potential overthrow of the UK Government. Would you believe major news organizations covered the formation of a Facebook page calling for a mass protest in Qatar on March 16. A Facebook page?? If some guy setting up a Facebook page is evidence of regime change then the US must be in complete anarchy right now -- how many anti-Obama Facebook pages must there be?

Big surprise, nothing happened March 16. You can look at a blog post from a couple weeks ago where I discuss why there won't be any trouble here.This lady does a good job discussing it as well.

Qatar is a small country, maybe 250,000 citizens, and the old Arab ways of challenging power and making changes still prevail, mostly in backroom discussions, alliances and political maneuvering. The current Emir took over from his father in a bloodless coup, and his father took over from his brother (the Emir’s uncle) in a bloodless(?) coup, and now many members/factions of the clan have been vying for power whilst also ensuring that other clans do not gain to much power themselves. I'm sure the Crown Prince was chosen more for his political ability than for his age (he is not the eldest son of His Highness). A weak Emir will quickly fall to a faction within his own clan.

I heard a story once, I'm not sure how true it is or not, that reports circulated through the Qatari grapevine that His Highness was severely ill. Apparently almost any Qatari of any importance who was out of the country immediately flew back, to prepare for the possible clandestine “battle” for secession should His Highness pass away. I've often wondered about the truth of this. I do believe though that because of the incredible transformations that have occurred in the country in the last 15 years, and the winning of the World Cup bid, His Highness's position is secure for a good long time. As long as he maintains his health things should remain stable. But backroom politics appears to be the Qatari way of life.

It's a shame we don't have more history or information on this, it would make a great soap opera, reminiscent of the backroom dramas of Machiavellian Italian families during the Renaissance.

There won't be any rebellions in Qatar. For insight into what is going on in the other countries you should search for articles from people from those countries who will provide excellent insight into the troubles and problems. That's what I do.

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