Are Arab Gulf states immune from the so-called ‘Arab Spring’

Print Friendly

By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, February 1, 2013

The Arab world has witnessed massive transformations in the past two years with uprisings and rebellions leading to the emergences of new leaders and governments.

Some Arab states, particularly Syria, are passing through increasingly difficult times with no sight so far for the turn of events.

But it will be wrong to think that the transformations will be confined to the countries that have passed or are passing through major upheavals.

No Arab country should think they are immune and the oil-rich Gulf states are no exception.

The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was reported as saying that it was naïve to think that the waves of ‘Arab Spring’ will come close to his country.

Many thought he was right and there was at the time some sort of evidence to substantiate his claim.

Two years ago, Syria was a stable country basking in security and some degree of prosperity regardless of the means the government employed to realize a situation like that.

Gulf states are slow to react and in the past three or four decades their policies were an echo of U.S. stands and attitudes.

But a glance at the status quo in these countries is enough to tell an observer that things shall not remain the same.

There are disturbances in Bahrain and problems in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. None of these problems have been tackled in a manner that is necessary for the preservation of social peace and stability.

Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a democratic experience despite its deficiencies. Kuwait has an elected parliament and governments can come and go in response to parliamentary deliberations or motions and popular discontent.

But conditions are worsening in Bahrain where the authorities have refused to meet demands by the opposition to reform the government.

As for the U.A.E. very little is emerging on the conditions there apart from statements by police chief in Dubai in which he lashes out at Muslim Brotherhood groups and their attempts to topple the monarchy.

Saudi Arabia is the most important country in the Gulf. It is position as an economic powerhouse due to its massive oil riches and exports as well as Islamic heritage has made it the center of attention with scenarios pointing to upheavals that will turn regional balances upside down.

There are some who would like to overlook these facts. However, they need to remember that nobody had the ability to predict what happened and what is happening in some Arabs states right now.

Arab Gulf states must prepare themselves for the worst scenarios possible – scenarios whose realization is a matter of a few years and not decades.