Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Times of Transition

There's never a dull moment in the Middle East.

In Egypt, about 15,000 protesters marched in Cairo today, and protests continue into the night. The protests appear to have been organized on Facebook as part of a Day of Rage. The primary thing to watch for in Egypt will be the reaction of the Mubarak government. It will likely be strong, but could backfire should it capture the attention of the Arab world and international community. Given the foreign aid the US gives to Egypt (overshadowed only by US foreign aid to Israel), and tonight's State of the Union speech, the US is not likely to play a major role in what happens over the next few days or weeks.

In Lebanon, protests broke out over news that the new Prime Minister would be the Hizbullah-backed Najib Miqati. The news is mixed. Now that the government is officially Hizbullah-aligned, the party will have more control over Lebanese policy. However, it will also bear more responsibility. The international community and US will need to be careful to deal with Lebanon in a way which legitimizes good governance, but de-legitimizes the radical elements of Hizbullah's agenda.

In the Palestinian Territories, Al-Jazeera's release of the Palestine Papers is likely to de-legitimize the status quo elites in the Palestinian Authority and will likely damage the peace process. Given the blatantly anti-Israel nature of the documents and the coverage surrounding them on both Al-Jazeera English and The Guardian, Israel is not likely to be reaping much benefit either.

Why are these events getting the blogosphere and the twitters all hot and bothered? Because much of it is unprecedented. What's going to happen in the future? Honestly, no one really knows. If someone tells you otherwise, it should send up a red flag. Stay tuned, readers.

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