Libya is now effectively divided and may remain so for the near future. The US administration does not want to get involved in another ground war in the Middle East now. Certainly not as the 2012 campaign starts this summer. The Europeans do not have what it takes to do the job alone: Libya is not exactly Cote d’Ivoire. The US may still be forced to intervene if the rebels in Benghazi face serious trouble.
Yemen most likely, nay almost certainly, will end up divided back into two states, the way it used to be before 1990. That was the year the socialists of South Yemen decided to merge with the regime of Ali Saleh in one Yemeni state.
Syria is now the most important unknown variable in the regional equation. It is the prize. It is allied with Iran, but the Saudis have their own partisans among the Salafi fundamentalists who are part of the protesters, as well as among the former Ba’athist henchmen now in exile. The Syrian uprising is like the Egyptian one, it seems to be a broad mix of Islamist fundamentalists and secularists, of rightists and leftists. A weakened Assad may survive; at least it looks like it early today. But the jury is still out for Syria.
Bahrain will remain under the apartheid system enforced by Saudi troops (many more than the 1,500 they claim). The al-Saud show no inclination to pull their forces out any time soon, if ever. The al-Khalifa clan are too terrified of their own people after what they did to feel safe without the Saudi protection. The fear for Bahrain is that the situation is untenable: the Bahrain people and the Saudi-alKhalifa side have no basis for agreement. No political solution is possible now. The despotic side, with the Saudi gun now at it back, will not accept even a return to the phony parliament. Maybe in the longer run, after some dramatic events. I expect that as the oppression continues, we will see more confrontation. People will eventually do what they have to do to get their rights. Ergo: it will become harder for regime agents to stage midnight raids and daytime pogroms into the Shi’a villages. More Saudi troops will come in, more blood. Saudis in turn will be bloodied as they transform the peaceful Bahrainis into desperate fighters. The al-Saud and al-Khalifa will blame the Iranians, the Iranians will blame the West, the West will have no one but itself to blame for allowing the absolute Wahhabi monarchs to take control. The USA will be caught in the middle of a popular uprising and a nasty Wahhabi campaign to eradicate it. Who will win? It is possible that eventually the charismatically-challenged prime minister will be forced out by the Saudis as they lose more troops, and the idiotic king Hamad Bin Issa may be forced to abdicate in favor of his son Crown Prince Salman, who is not nearly half as idiotic as his father. A good solution for Bahrain: get rid of both Hamad and the extremely disliked uncle Khalifa, make the Crown Prince a constitutional monarch, have Saudis pull out to confront their own troubles with their people, hopefully. As for the Emiratis, they can help by carrying the Saudis’ luggage for them on the way out, just as they did on the way in. But there will be hell between now and then.
- The UAE rulers may throw a wrench into all this by deciding to make use of their massive arsenal of weapons rusting in desert warehouses. As I keep telling you, they are the second biggest importers of weapons in the whole world, and are aspiring to become the first biggest importers of weapons in the whole world. They may just get fed up watching those billions of dollars worth of weapons rusting unused. The al-Nahyan brothers may just decide to storm across my Gulf and invade Iran. Then the US administration will truly have the mother of all Middle East problems on its hands.