Key stress points in the Arab world

While the world’s attention is riveted to Syria’s civil war, there are other countries trying to cope with the convulsions of the Arab Spring that began nearly 2 ½ years ago. A look at some stress points in the Arab world beyond the battles in Syria:

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JORDAN: Rising political opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood and a stumbling economy that depends on U.S. aid to keep it afloat. King Abdullah II has agreed to step-by-step reforms, including ending the practice of hand-picking the prime minister and transferring the task to the elected parliament.

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KUWAIT: An alliance of conservative and liberal groups is stepping up demands for the Western-backed emir to relinquish key powers such as appointing crucial government positions. Kuwait has the most politically empowered parliament among the Gulf Arab states, but opposition groups are seeking more concessions from the ruling Al Sabah family. Clashes erupted late last year before parliamentary elections that were boycotted by many opposition factions.

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BAHRAIN: The tiny Gulf kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, has been gripped by violence as majority Shiites rise up demanding a greater political voice in the strategic, Sunni-ruled nation. At least 60 people have died — more, say some rights groups. Prominent opposition and human rights figures have been jailed. Clashes have eased in recent months, but tensions remain high.

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SAUDI ARABIA: Sporadic protests have flared in an eastern region dominated by Shiites, who claim discrimination under the Sunni monarchy. Unemployment and poverty persist despite the Saudi oil wealth, leading to allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Authorities in the UAE have sharply increased arrests and pressures on suspected political reformers and dissidents. More than 100 suspects have been arrested, including Egyptians allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in their homeland and 94 Emirate citizens charged with plotting an Islamist-inspired coup.

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MOROCCO: Sporadic protests press for greater democratic reforms, but major demonstrations ended in 2011 after a new constitution was presented and early elections were won by an opposition party.

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ALGERIA: Questions abound about 76-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s health after a minor stroke in April and whether he will seek a fourth term in elections next year. Pro-reform protests have been limited by lavish spending of oil revenue on social and jobs programs, but Algeria’s vast youth population appears increasingly disenchanted with the old guard leadership.

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