28 Feb 2011

Middle East uprisings: no one predicted 'rebellious cascade'

The New Year turned, we made our amateur predictions, some made their professional prognostications, and not one of them predicted Tunisia, let alone Egypt, let alone Bahrain, and heaven forbid, Libya! No one anywhere in the world predicted this rebellious cascade.

Hence here we are in a world of no experts. The thinkers are having to think the unthinkable – the old UK outpost Oman, whose security is almost exclusively in ex-British army hands, now in turmoil, Kuwait wobbly, and fear stalking the whole matter of Saudi Arabia. There‚Äôs an excellent piece in today’s FT from David Gardner (a seasoned Mideast watcher) in which he sets out the issues in Saudi very clearly. But if the unthinkable happens and Saudi upheaves, the world economy will upheave with it. We should watch for the supposed “day of rage” posted on Saudi Facebook sites for March 11. None of the “experts” expect it. But then we live in the age of the inexpert and the unexpected.

Who’d have thought that Tunisia would claim the scalp of the French Foreign minister for insensitive family deals with the ex-President and for holidaying whilst the protest storm was rising? Now the French Prime Minister is under pressure too for having taken a holiday with Mubarak before the storm.

Tony Blair and his family took a holiday in one of Mubarak’s villas in Sharm-el-Sheikh in December 2005. I had to visit him there on 1 January 2006 to do an interview about the tsunami. He had just taken tea with the King of Bahrain along the road.

Fascinating how the worm turns. What appears in one phase of history to be bearable, becomes questionable, and a French head rolls.

But perhaps as unexpected and unpredicted as the events themselves is the remarkable vote in the United Nations Security Council. A unanimous vote to exile Gaddafi from the international community and to chase him down and prosecute him at the International Criminal Court.

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