The killing of Christopher Stevens and the storming of U.S. embassies around the Middle East and North Africa has understandably dominated the headlines from the region over the past few weeks. The turmoil has thrust the post-revolutionary countries of the Arab Spring -- Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and above all Libya -- into the limelight.
So yes, we know a lot more now about the militia problem in Benghazi. But what about some of the other countries where revolutionary discontent smolders on without attracting much in the way of press coverage? These are the places where we may be experiencing the political conundrums and diplomatic surprises of tomorrow.
Take, for example, Kuwait -- a staunch U.S. ally that has just been rocked by a new bout of protests. The ruling Al-Sabah family has controlled the place for the past two and a half centuries, and they've generally succeeded in keeping things firmly under their control (with at least one notable exception back in 1990). But can Washington count on things to stay the way they've been?
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On October 7, the emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, dissolved parliament -- prompting a sizable protest earlier this week (shown in the photo above) by 5,000 disgruntled oppositionists that was violently suppressed by the police. The protestors, a mixture of Islamists and tribal members, were demanding that the emir scrap a proposed electoral law that, they say, would skew the vote in favor of pro-government candidates. (The opposition turned in a surprisingly strong showing in an election earlier this year, apparently unnerving the ruling family.) The protest this week was the latest in a series of rallies by the opposition that have attracted large crowds, all of them calling for greater political accountability.
Now, this doesn't mean that the House of Sabah is about to collapse. But it certainly demonstrates that the anti-establishment momentum inspired by the popular protests of 2010 and 2011 has not dissipated. The grievances in some other parts of the region, indeed, are strikingly similar to some of those expressed in Kuwait.
Take Jordan, for example. The country, like Kuwait, is another one of Washington's most reliable allies in the region, and its monarch, King Abdullah II, has so far managed to avoid major instability by promising major reforms to a restive population. But on Friday, October 5, the kingdom's Muslim Brotherhood brought a big crowd out onto the streets of the capital Amman to demand changes strikingly similar to the ones expressed by the demonstrators in Kuwait. The Jordanians, too, were protesting an election law designed to boost the representation of rural areas (inhabited mostly by Bedouin tribes loyal to the king) over that of cities (home mostly to Palestinians who tend to side with the Islamists).