No time for a real post today, but just as an FYI: the “cascading trouble” that people have been worrying about for years in the Middle East may have finally started. Tunisia’s dictator was recently overthrown by a popular revolution (although it looks like the military and/or security services may be taking over in the aftermath); but now there are large-scale protests in Egypt, which may be enough to finally topple Mubarak. He’s been using fairly authoritarian measures to prevent this for decades, and the concern has been of a resurgence in Islamist power if the government were to collapse, in the Arab world’s most populous (and culturally influential) country. Now it looks like we’re seeing large-scale instability in Yemen, (which was never really stable to begin with, granted) and Hezbollah seems poised to take over Lebanon. The secession referendum in the Sudan isn’t something I would normally list with Middle East issues, but it does pit the Arab north against the oil-rich African south, and has the risk of spreading instability into southern Egypt and/or Libya, or outwards via the already very-unstable Horn of Africa to reinforce the issues in Yemen, Oman, and maybe even Saudi Arabia.
This entire situation opens the possibility for “rolling revolution” of some sort, especially in areas which have had strongly authoritarian regimes (often ethnic minorities) suppressing the population for a long time. I would mark the entire African Middle East and the Arabian peninsula as being at particularly high risk, with the chance of an Iranian power play during a time of opportunity creating additional risks in the fertile crescent all the way out through Lebanon. This could all fizzle out, or it could turn into a major regional realignment, with existing (total bastard, but at least semi-stable and established) regimes replaced by popular movements run by highly radical organizations.
So: Analysis later, right now just wanted to keep everyone posted.