After Egypt, Tunisia, Libya overthrows, Arab upheaval begins to settle
Egypt quietly moves into another phase of voting, while the monarchs in Morocco and Jordan have stabilized their rule through reforms.
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There has been a steady drumbeat of democracy demonstrations in Jordan since early 2011. Leftists, communists, Islamists, and tribal leaders have all expressed their various demands. Western commentators have occasionally predicted that King Abdullah will go the way of ousted President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, but so far the protests have produced little beyond what Jordanian blogger Naseem Tarawnah calls "political theater."Skip to next paragraph
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In February, Abdullah sacked his prime minister in response to the first round of protests and installed a new one with orders to carry out a reform program. In August, with protests ongoing, he did the same again. Various committees were formed to address undemocratic aspects of the country's political system. The resulting reforms were decried as wholly inadequate by both the left and the Islamists, but they were accepted by the king in late August anyway – to little noticeable effect.
The government, as is typical throughout the region, has dismissed protesters as troublemakers and foreign infiltrators, deepening the divisions between East Bank Jordanians and those of Palestinian origin. Thugs have attacked protesters, which both Islamists and leftists accuse of being hired by the government.
But it hasn't all been one-way traffic. Many Jordanians say there's a new willingness to criticize the state and make political demands.
"I think the public movement has achieved some change in the political arena in Jordan – quite a lot of change actually – and I think it's for the better," says Nimer al-Assaf, the deputy general secretary of Jordan's Islamic Action Front, which has led many of the protests. "The people do not fear, now, to talk about how they feel and what they want."
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has managed internal calls for change much as it always has – with large dollops of cash.
In the months following Mr. Mubarak's ouster from Egypt, Abdullah announced more than $90 billion in new subsidies and social spending, and also dispatched troops and money to Bahrain to help his fellow monarch put down protests.
Al Qaeda concerns in Yemen
Finally, there is Yemen. Whether the recent departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh will do much to satisfy opponents of the region, who have been involved in a bloody struggle against Mr. Saleh for much of the past year, is uncertain.
In the south, which was only reunified with the north in 1990, the winds of secession are blowing.
The United States has been deeply involved in drone assassinations and efforts to rein in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group that appears the most potent of the Al Qaeda franchises, leaving it balancing its security priorities against support for full democracy that could result in less cooperation from a new Yemeni government.
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