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Arab Spring 2.0: Don’t Get Any Ideas, Washington

November 21, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Middle East is erupting again, as angry youths lead demonstrations in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. In fact, protests reach much further: Hong Kong and Chile have been similarly convulsed. If nothing else, political elites around the world are sleeping a little less soundly.

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In 2011, popular discontent swept the Arab world, but only Tunisia looks remotely successful. Syria and Libya were convulsed by devastating civil wars. Egypt ended up ruled by an even more brutal despot. Bahrain’s Sunni royal family relied on the Saudi military to ensure the subservience of the Shia majority. The other Gulf kingdoms bought political peace, increasing welfare payments to their largely dependent populations. No country in the region looks particularly stable.

The most striking though least noted demonstrations may be those in Egypt. In September, several thousand people took to the streets in Cairo and a half dozen other cities demanding the ouster of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The regime arrested some 4,300 protesters. About them, the Trump administration said nothing, since President Donald Trump likes the brutal new pharaoh.

Sisi has jailed and tortured more people than his predecessor and closed down NGOs that monitored Cairo’s human rights abuses. Yet despite the near-certainty that they’d face extended prison terms, demonstrators turned out against his regime. Their courage demonstrated his fragility. People are angry over the continued lack of economic growth and jobs. Corruption rages unabated: Sisi represents the statist commercial class, dependent on government favors. Moreover, he has reinforced the armed services’ extensive control over the economy, which has turned soldiers into a privileged class. He no longer makes any pretense of political liberalization, having crushed all activism, and not only that of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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In the short term, he is unlikely to be ousted. However, his long-term survival is less certain, since he is widely hated and seen as vulnerable. Even the military has put distance between it and the president; he had to arrest and intimidate officers to prevent them from …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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