The riots that led to the overthrow of the government in Tunisia earlier this month have been followed by similar protests in Algeria and Jordan. Now, it appears that this mood is growing legs in the Arab world. Demonstrations rocked Egypt for the second day running, leading to speculation that the most populous Arab country in the world will be next in line for a sudden and unexpected change in regime.
The stock market in Egypt fell 10%, and this came following reports of widespread outages of Facebook and Twitter in the country. The government of President Hosni Mubarak, the geriatric dictator (and US ally) has responded with familiar police state tactics. Situations like this are very unstable, and trying to predict what will happen next is pointless. But, of course I’m going to anyways. When people are this angry, the dynamics of a situation have a troubling tendency to sometimes lead to the most violent or undesirable outcome. Our longstanding support of the status quo in Egypt may have troubling consequences for us for a long time to come in the most populous Arab country in the world.
And it may not stop there. Demonstrations have also taken place in Sanaa today, the capital of Yemen, calling for the removal of President Ali Abdulla Saleh (also in place for three decades, also a US ally). Yemen’s particularly troubling, not because of the size of its population, but because Al Qaeda has been making progress in establishing a presence in the country.
So let’s ask ourselves this: if the collapse of the government in Tunisia is followed by similar changes in Egypt and Yemen, two long-standing US allies, what pops up in their place? Democratic, capitalist, progressive reformers? No. Most likely, something that has more in common with the Dark Ages than today.