Political and Economic Transition on the Arabian Peninsula Perils and Prospects; Strategic Insights: v.2, issue 5 (May 2003)
Russell, James A.
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There can be little doubt that, the U.S. invasion of Iraq notwithstanding, a combination of factors are conspiring to create a new sense of momentum impelling the Persian Gulf and the Middle East towards an era of profound economic and political change. While the prospect of some sort of democratic entity inside Iraq may serve as a proximate cause towards some of the recent moves towards political reform, it is also the case that the ruling elites in the region, following their public opinion, are grasping the inevitability of political and economic transition in the new millennium. Chaos and order may thus become one in the new emerging political landscape in which the friction of an emerging political process will tear down old walls and replace them with new and undefined structures. While the ruling Gulf elites have an abiding interest in controlling this process, the unleashing of populist-style politics in Iraq may be a force that spills across borders, pushing the ruling elites in directions that they have so far proven reluctant to go. To head off such a possibility, however, useful and constructive attempts are being made to try to channel the process of political transition into orderly and peaceful channels. This document concludes that the role of the United States in this process could be critical, with the challenge being to strike the right balance between supportive involvement and sufficient distance to allow the process to unfold at a pace that is defined by the region's elites and their publics.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (May 2003), v.2 no.5
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