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March 29, 2011


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Point you're missing, but is important: Saudi Arabia let go of Yemen about a week-ten days ago (Saudi press switched from variations on "Turmoil in Yemen" to "Change in Yemen" in the same way they shifted vocabularies when Egypt moved past Mubarak).

Though the GCC is uneasy about long-term intervention in Bahrain (Kuwait against, Qatar for, UAE following whatever the Saudis want) the "win" in Yemen is going to free up all the Shi'a tribesmen the Saudis hate, and so the internal dynamics of the GCC are going to shift to "no compromise" with the reformists in Bahrain. You also missed out on Iran's half-hearted intrigue, which will amount to nothing in the short term, but will stir up serious trouble in the next three months.

What scares me in Yemen isn't regime change. I don't even fear a Yemenese civil war --- although that would be a bad thing --- I fear full-fledged state-failure. That's why I highlighted the ammo dump story: it's a very very bad sign.

Your use of "win" is a bit confusing, but I think I track with the rest of the story. (Is Qatar really hard-line on Bahrain?) It's going to cost the Saudis, though, what with the inevitable hits to the Bahraini economy. And it isn't going to get prettier.

But Yemeni collapse is terrifying. Can you reassure me?

I am not a Yemen specialist, but following the people who are, I'm not sold on the narrative of state failure or civil war just yet, and that we'll get a paper transition from Saleh to someone else who's part of the ruling clique (ish) as the main opposition party overlays the tribal fissures. I'd be much more interested in watching the Houthis (northern Yemen, tribal, etc) and how twitchy the Saudis get whenever anything flips. Also, of course, specialist predictions have been wrong for the last two or three months. This is not reassuring. On the thin upside, if Yemen's transition is worse, it may encourage Saudi-American rapprochement. And the sale of a ton more American drones.

But, doing that while Syria's Iraqi population is running for cover to Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq is not going to do that much good.

I apologize for the confusing "win." I've been pulling appallingly long days, nose down in the finer points of Da'wa Party conference proceedings, c. 1988.

The Qatari dynasty hates the Khalifas and wants to stick it to them any way they can. It's not clear how that will play out over the long term, however, because I could see a scheming play to either 1) undermine Saudi intervention and encourage Revolution 2) support Saudi intervention and hollow out the monarchy. Either play would work to achieve their objective.

Also, if the Saudi occupation goes on, expect some anti-guestworker riots in the near future.

Gotcha. This clarifies a lot, including the position of the Qatari government. I knew that they didn't like the Bahraini ruling family, but I assumed that would put them in favor of the opposition. Thinking about it, that's a hella conclusion to jump to.

Not reassured on Yemen.

See: http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/3/22/aborted-revolution-in-yemen.html for Yemen. I'm looking for something useful and current, haven't found one I like just yet, but I don't really trust that report in the WSJ about Muhsin standing aside--in particular, recall that Saleh and his allies have made a point of offering the kind of concessions that would resolve the issue, and then not following through on them.

I'd REALLY like to be a fly on the wall for the GCC meetings right now, but more worrying is the way that Bahrain will play out in Iraq, for example.

Watch for comments by Nathan Brown or Michael Herb.

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