Friday, March 4, 2011

• Leadership And The Middle East Crisis

In one generation our world has shrunk immeasurably, yet it has also exploded unrecognizably. The Internet and the social media superimposed on it has claimed responsibility for igniting revolutions and/or demonstrations throughout Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.

Overthrown governments in Tunisia and Egypt are a problem, however, revolutions in countries such as strategically critical Libya and Bahrain present a whole different set of even more troubling uncertainties. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates are implementing measures to snuff out those potential fires of unrest by “buying” segments of their populations before they get out of control.

Saudi Arabia increased salaries to public employees by 15% and made claims that it will improve education, infrastructure and healthcare through the trickling of $36 billion down through Saudi society – from the top. The Saudi pre-emptive strike is a short-term plug in a leaky dyke holding back unrest it doesn’t understand, and blames on foreign disruptive forces. It’s king and ruling family lack the capacity to ignite the entrepreneurial or creative innovation required to build a country for long term success.

Countries that are currently home to 2/3 of known crude reserves are now unstable, and have escalating conflicts that will further the bloodshed in the streets. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee continuing rises in oil prices which will in turn feed the monster of inflation to affect prices of most products and foods around the world.

Through the sandstorms of all uprisings there are religious forces influencing the fighting, particularly Shiites colliding with Sunnis. We should be particularly concerned with evolving conflicts on the streets of Bahrain, where a Sunni king rules a 70% Shiite population. Bahrain is the banking capital of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for the naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the whole regions, is based on the island. Bahrain’s strategic importance is immeasurable. Shiite Iran which has long funded and armed insurgencies occurring amongst its Muslim neighbors is just a stone’s throw across the pond, while Sunni Saudi Arabia is a walk across the 16 mile causeway, but Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province with a Shiite majority, holds critical oil production facilities.

There are parallels in perspectives that exist between the House of Saud and the Administration in the White House, and should either or both continue to proceed in denial, there are outcomes that will negatively impact the populations of the two countries.

Both the House of Saud and the Obama administration are attempting to purchase support of their respective populations. Such measures are very temporary, stopgap solutions rooted in ignorance. Both ignore reality. King Abdullah heaving bushels of dollars out his palace windows, briefly quieting the simmering discontent he doesn’t understand, and Obama’s stubborn refusal to listen to the message bellowed from America’s streets through the midterm election bullhorns, suggests confusion at the top in both countries.

The current United States leadership appears conflicted between choosing the objective of championing America’s propensity to uphold principles of freedom and democracy, and maintaining stability in the region. Those are not mutually exclusive missions for the Middle East, yet any breakdown of decisive direction and action will provide Iranian leadership an opportunity to expand it footholds from which to spread its religious doctrine of hate and slaughter across the Middle East.

A majority of any population does not want handouts – this truism applies in America, and it applies in Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain. As we have witnessed, it also applies in the streets of Teheran. People seek safety, freedom, dignity, transparency, and justice, within which they can actuate the lives they pursue for themselves and their families. A transition to more open governance is inevitable. It will take decisive leadership from the West to ensure that such freedom is provided and maintained in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

We may soon reach a point when America will be forced to draw a line around Bahrain’s sands. American presence must not leave Bahrain’s shores, and Bahrain cannot fall to extremist interests. It certainly cannot be allowed to slide under an Iranian manipulated extremist thumb. Stability in these critical countries across the Middles East will have positive impact on the West, and the Obama White House will have to demonstrate some heretofore obscure measures of resolve.

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