Thinking the Unthinkable: Is the Gulf Next?
It’s time to think the unthinkable: Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states may be getting in line for their turn at confronting widespread popular discontent. As a wave of mass protests sweeps the Arab world, shaking the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the core, rumblings of popular restlessness are bubbling to the service in the Gulf. Shiite opposition groups in Bahrain, a strategic island kingdom that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, have called for protests on February 14 to demand greater political freedom, a halt to attempts to redress the sectarian balance in a Shiite-majority country ruled by a Sunni minority, an end to human rights abuses and improved economic opportunities. Over the past month, Saudi Arabia’s dismal soccer performance in the Asian Cup, unemployment, floods in Jeddah that killed at least four people and the granting of asylum to the ousted Tunisian leader have sparked protests and criticism on newspaper op-ed pages as well as on blogs and in Internet chat rooms. Read more of my story in World Politics Review