More from the Middle East

Just some random blurbs. The situation in Egypt continues to develop slowly; lots of marches, Mubarak has told his new VP to negotiate with el-Baradei, while presumably he himself is negotiating with various other countries for asylum.

Interestingly, King Abdullah of Jordan just dismissed his entire government and appointed Marou al-Bakhit as prime minister. Looks like a move to head off similar trouble in his country. That’s reasonably likely to work; while it’s not exactly a bunny-rabbits-and-kittens sort of regime, his government seems to be viewed as considerably less repressive than that of most of his neighbors.

Side thought on Jordan: The country is incredibly poor; it has two cities, a small strip of villages, and a great deal of open desert. Along with Israel and Lebanon, it’s one of only three countries in the Middle East not to have any oil. (“Dear God. You couldn’t have put the Holy Land somewhere else?”) In terms of population, it’s got three major groups: Arabs (dominant in the cities and the villages), Palestinians (which have largely been kept in giant refugee camps ever since 1967 — the government doesn’t really want them) and Bedouins. (Who live in the desert) It’s a constitutional monarchy, but with emphasis on the “monarchy” part. The city Arabs and the Bedouins both see themselves as the ones who are really the upper class. The villages — I have no idea how they actually survive or eat there. It’s not like the land is suitable for agriculture. But the relatively low overall population, and the attention that the government has paid to “security,” seems to make it a better bet than most countries in its area to maintain a stable regime. All told, this isn’t so bad.

Fatah and Hamas, meanwhile, have found one thing they agree upon — allowing absolutely no protests, clamping down on news, and so on. Unlikely that this will actually work, but they’re hoping to avert a popular uprising. My guess is that Fatah is much more vulnerable to this than Hamas, even though both are highly corrupt, because Hamas has a much more effective security apparatus. (Which is a euphemism for “secret police”)

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Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 11:16  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. I don’t think the characterization of Jordan as “incredibly poor” is accurate. Their GDP/capita is around 2x of Egypt’s. They certainly don’t have much in the way of water/energy/oil, but Jordan has open economic policies and people who are very well educated.

    Visiting the cities of Jordan didn’t feel all that different to me than exploring cities in the US.

    Also, how do they eat there? Deliciously.

    • Deliciously indeed. 🙂 I think that Jordan has a very extreme urban/rural asymmetry. The (two) cities are definitely wealthier than Egypt, but as soon as you get out of them the standard of living plummets; my eyeball impression was that the Egyptian countryside is a lot better off than the Jordanian. But I should see if I can find some numbers to back this.

      And I probably should have been clear, I think that Jordan is at least as good a place to live as Egypt, and from a social perspective it seems much less screwed up; it’s only in terms of its rural economics that I think it has a deep problem.


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