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Monday, January 24, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report: 5 Arab states could go the way of Tunisia

WASHINGTON — Five Arab League states could follow the collapse of the regime in Tunisia.


A report by Foreign Policy magazine, a leading U.S. journal on international affairs, listed five countries whose regimes could be overthrown by a Tunisian-style revolt. They were identified as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Sudan, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A government that crushes dissent and censors the media might preside over relative prosperity and make the trains run on time, but its real stability remains in doubt as long as its citizens cannot express grievances through peaceful and open channels," Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said.

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Foreign Policy cited food and unemployment riots in Algeria in December and January. The magazine also cited concerns that the brother of Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika was trying to succeed the ailing 73-year-old leader.

"Although Bouteflika's regime is unpopular and increasingly undemocratic, it's not nearly as repressive as was Ben Ali's, which may make it harder for the opposition to build a mass movement for its ouster," the report said. "Additionally, there are no signs that Algeria's influential trade unions or opposition groups are willing to support the rioters — who are mostly unemployed youths at this point. Perhaps in an effort to avoid association with Bin Ali, Bouteflika has wished success to Tunisia's new government."

Egypt has also been vulnerable to massive unrest, including food demonstrations as well as suicide protests. So far, at least three people have set themselves on fire in protest of the policies of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The opposition has already warned of a Tunisian-style revolt.

The report said street protests have also been sparked in Libya despite the removal of duties on imported food. Some of the protests have been posted on Youtube amid reports of infighting within the Gadhafi family.

Jordan and Sudan have also been struggling with rising unrest. The regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir has been threatened with secession by the south as well as protests in Khartoum, while Jordan faced rising unrest sparked by high food prices and unemployment. Jordan's Queen Rania received an online message that she should begin "palace-hunting in Jedda," the new Saudi haven of Bin Ali.

"An unpredictable new parliament and double-digit unemployment have led some analysts to question his [Jordan's King Abdullah] grasp on power," the report said.

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