Middle East turmoil merits attention

The Middle East has consistently been a hotbed of conflict for decades, but it seems that the turmoil has reset recently at a particularly high level. This level of higher tension started with the Arab Spring and the overthrowing of the government in Tunisia followed closely by the toppling of the established governments in Egypt (Mubarak) and Libya (Qaddafi).

Currently, high intensity of conflict resides in the relentless civil war in Syria, which Hezbollah recently joined as supporters of the established regime, and also Egypt, which is seeing rising tensions such that informed observers foresee a high probability of violent outbursts if not outright civil war. While not as immediately incendiary, tensions remain high within the Palestinian authority, where the Prime Minister recently resigned less than one month after being appointed.

Pertaining specifically to Egypt, the NY Times had a story about the rising tensions. I found the most impactful paragraph of the article was buried almost at the end:

“Analysts note that the current political debate includes almost no criticism of any specific Morsi policies or articulation of alternatives. Instead, the demand to remove Mr. Morsi is driven by fears among opposition groups of the Brotherhood’s future Islamist agenda, worries among old government and business elites about their potential displacement, and the inchoate anger of much of the population at the fuel shortages and economic pain brought on by two years of political strife. “The agenda is not about health reform or how to build an Egyptian Harvard or Yale,” said Moataz Abdel Fattah, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo. “It is just a competition over who should preside and set the rules.””

It is particularly challenging to address a problem in which the central issues are increasing poverty, economic deterioration, mistrust of leaders, and deep-seated disagreement about how to shape the future. In the absence of a problem that can be fixed to mollify the anger, the possibility of escalating anger, unrest, and violence remains high.

As I observe these stories unfolding, I am struck by the lack of attention they seem to be getting both in the financially-oriented media and the lay press. Perhaps we (society) are somewhat desensitized to the higher level of turmoil in that has persisted in the Middle East. Alternately, perhaps there is simply a pervasive attitude of complacency. Regardless, these issues seem to be highly significant from social, political, and economic standpoints. I hope both that they do not escalate and that they do not spill over to cause larger problems on a more global scale.

source: Egypt, Its Streets a Tinderbox, Braces for a Spark (NY Times)


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