The revolutionary match lit in Tunisia has sparked a revolt in Egypt. The people’s movement has been swift—comparatively so when gauged against the sluggish nature of dictators like Mubarak who can’t fathom that the tables have turned. But what does this mean for the rest of the world?
Citizens of Jordan now know their political lot has improved, spurring King Abdullah II to begin offering olive branches to the Muslim Brotherhood of political participation and to rural enclaves with greater subsidies. The Brotherhood has spurned such offers, seeking real elections, and given the dramatic changes taking place in the region, it can afford to make such demands.
Syria’s youthful demographic and unemployment make it ripe for turnover, but most of the political opposition has been killed, is imprisoned or has been bought off through the plums of globalization. Only its growing poverty can work a political ache into a full root-canal revolution. Entities that could make a difference —the Muslim Brotherhood—are illegal and punishable by death, so upheaval is not sure. Still, you can sense the government’s fragility: it recently increased fuel subsidies for government workers.
What about Saudi Arabia? According to recent cable leaks from Wikileaks, Saudi Arabia may have overstated its oil reserves by as much as 40% or 300 billion barrels. (Read the Guardian story on this here) Recently, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah stated in no uncertain terms to President Obama that he should not humiliate Mubarak, warning that he would step in to fund Egypt if the US withdrew its aid program. The US supplies Egypt with about $1.5 billion of aid per year. Apparently, King Abdullah and President Mubarak are also personal friends, not just allies. Certainly, Abdullah must see the writing on the wall. Even if Saudi Arabia backs Egypt, it would only be a band-aid that will be ripped off by popular will. Moreover, if the oil that the Saudis have is now at its zenith, its powers must begin to ebb. The whiff of oncoming revolt must be streaming into King Abdullah’s nostrils.
What of the near future? Prices will continue to rise due to the political upheaval abroad, and as suggested in the headlines, the limits of Saudi oil reserves. What then for us Americans? Spikes in prices, greater political instability and …presto! We’ve got ourselves into a very similar situation as our Egyptian brethren: high unemployment, high prices and political dissatisfaction. Could the demands of the populists (more jobs, greater regulation of banking entities, etc.) finally come to our shores? Inshallah.