Well, could it? This year will probably be known as the year of Arab Freedom. There are many states that are bobbling. Large population states like Algeria and Morocco could easily be added to the Egypt, Tunisia list. As could Libya. But what of the Gulf? What of the riots in Bahrain? It would seem that there is less of a likelihood that something of this nature would happen, due to dispersal of wealth towards the broader demographic of local population. But what of the larger populations where that doesn't happen? Yemen seems to be a nation that could crack at any time, being the poorest and youngest (more than 60% are under the age of 25). But the question about Saudi still remains. The largest and wealthiest nation in the Gulf could cause mass uncertainty globally if anything were to happen. Why? Because of Oil. And that's something that the rest of the world will look to prevent happening.
Bat back to the question. Could there be an uprising in the UAE? Probably? Will the UAE be overthrown? Probably not. According to Christopher M. Davidson and in his piece in Foreign Policy, there is likely to be some tension:Saudi Arabia and Oman, however, have large numbers of poor, disenfranchised nationals, many of whom will now see a future without dynasties, palaces, and subsidies. They will likely take action. Even in the UAE, where there are hundreds of thousands of nationals living in modest conditions in the northern emirates, plus up to a hundred thousand stateless "bidoon" people, there are protests planned against their Abu Dhabi masters.
He goes on:The United Arab Emirates is an equally complex case. Made up seven different emirates bound together in a loose confederation, each has its own monarchy but with Abu Dhabi commanding the bulk of the UAE's oil wealth, that emirate's leaders have always been synonymous with the UAE's presidency. The al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi have historically been quite cautious and conservative rulers, preferring to keep family matters as private as possible and position themselves as "honest brokers" in trying to fix disputes elsewhere in the UAE. Their patriarch -- Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan -- was ruler up until 2004, when he was succeeded peacefully by his eldest son, Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Khalifa rules as a figurehead, having been described in a recent WikiLeaks cable signed by the U.S. ambassador as a "distant and uncharismatic personage." The real power rests with Khalifa's crown prince and younger half-brother, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Mohammed has five younger full brothers, including the UAE's minister for foreign affairs, and these represent the future of the regime. Dubai's ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, serves as the UAE's prime minister and minister of defence. But these are meaningless positions, and his role in Dubai's spectacular economic collapse will ensure he plays little part in future UAE-wide politics. The rulers of the smaller emirates have minimal influence, and have ended up as subsidized vassals. Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, deserves special mention as an educated and well-respected figure. (That said, Sharjah has been the scene of some horrific human rights violations in recent years.)
It's all about Abu Dhabi - and I'd still argue Dubai. Despite the roller-coaster of a ride over the last few years, I think there is stability and a longtermism in the broader UAE Vision that will hold it in good stead for the future. I'm sure the UAE people see that as well.Lords of the Realm
Labels: arab freedom