The king responded by dissolving parliament and appointing a new prime minister. But the Islamists say that they're boycotting the next election, scheduled for January 23. Some might argue that the king has survived worse challenges than this in the past, invariably banking on his role as the mediator between Jordanian Palestinians and the tribes. Yet now there are signs of increasing restiveness among the tribes, and the king may find himself hard-pressed to ensure their support amid the pressures from a sluggish economy and the rising violence in neighboring Syria.
It's too early to count Abdullah out. He's shown himself to be a highly resourceful leader in the past, and it's also worth noting that the long-established monarchies in the region have actually proven more resilient in the face of popular discontent than the dictator-led corruption. But the kings may not be able to dodge the bullet forever.
Take Morocco, often cited as the country that has managed grassroots discontent better than just about any of its peers. (It's been particularly lauded by the Americans.) King Mohammed VI responded to mass demonstrations in February 2011 by amending the constitution and holding elections. But his promises of wider reform have never quite materialized, and now his economic problems are deepening. On October 11, Standard & Poor's responded to the kingdom's deteriorating public finances by cutting its sovereign credit rating from stable to negative. Small wonder that Mohammed has just headed off to the Gulf States to solicit a bit of additional financia
And then there's that other trusty U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud, with its nearly limitless financial resources, would seem to be among the least endangered of the region's established regimes. And yet, almost unnoticed by the outside world, the rebellion in the kingdom's Eastern Province continues to smolder.
The province, where the kingdom's richest oil fields are located, is also home to a large population of Shiites, who have endured persistent discrimination for their religious beliefs since the founding of modern Saudi Arabia in the 1920s. (The ruling family as well as a majority of the population are extremely conservative Sunnis who generally regard Shiism as a heretical offshoot of Islam.) The latest round of protests in the region started in February 2011, and they've continued ever since. The government poured additional fuel on the fire by arresting a popular Shiite cleric in July 2012. (He seems to have attracted the particular ire of the authorities by calling upon his followers to celebrate the death of Interior Minister Crown Prince Nayef in June, who was widely hated by the Shiites for his orchestration of the measures against them.)
The Saudi security forces have never enjoyed a reputation for restraint, and they seem to have had little hesitation about using force against the mostly unarmed protestors. As recently as September 26, three men were killed in the area of Qatif during a raid by Saudi law-enforcement organs. It's clear that the region remains on edge.