Sectarian and ethnic tension, religious violence, and terrorism threats appear to be rising trends in the Gulf region according to a new study on the state of security in the Gulf by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The 200-plus page report released last week was prepared by veteran analyst Anthony H. Cordesman from CSIS, a highly respected Washington, DC, think tank.
The report notes the alarming rise of politicized Islam in the Arab world. Even in Saudi Arabia, the so-called Islamic State has found many followers in spite of the fact that the self-proclaimed caliphate does not recognize Saudi Arabia.
Also highlighted in the report is a profound consolidation of governmental power with little to no participation by the ordinary citizen.
The report allows one to measure the great paradox that is the modern Arab world, with excessive and often times ostentatious wealth on the one hand, and almost medieval situations, where women are openly sold as slaves in the marketplace and public executions are common, on the other.
Indeed, even if the lifestyles are rather extreme in some instances, what would be considered extremely unusual in the West can be the norm in the Arab world. The common denominator here seems to be abundant oil and gas in these countries, the sale of which allows the realization of sometimes outlandish projects.
These projects can range from the construction of five star hotels, world-class shopping malls with indoor ski slopes and some of the world’s tallest buildings, to large-scale arms trading and the financing of the Islamic State.
The report examines each of the Gulf Cooperation Countries as well as Yemen (and a few others that have an impact on the region, such as Iran and Egypt, and rates them on a number of criteria that include:
1. Voice and Accountability: the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association and a free media.
2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism: the likelihood that the government will be destabilized by unconstitutional or violent means, including terrorism.
3. Government Effectiveness: the quality of public services, the capacity of the civil service and its independence from political pressures; and the quality of policy formulation.
4. Regulatory Quality: the ability of the government to provide sound policies and regulations that enable and promote private sector development.
5. Rule of Law: …(T)he rules of society, including the quality of contract enforcement and property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.
6. Control of Corruption: the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates rate low in transparency and are declining in voice and accountability. Kuwait receives a “poor” mark, Oman and Qatar rate “very low,” while Saudi Arabia rates “extremely low,” with no levels of transparency and no positive trends in sight.
Iraq and Yemen come in so low in the ratings that they are considered failed states.
In terms of governance Bahrain faces “serious problems,” Kuwait gets “good to moderate” marks in governance but scores low on corruption.
Bahrain faces serious demographic pressures increased by reliance on foreign laborers.
Oman faces growing problems with political stability and violence that the government is trying to downplay and conceal.
The only positive ray of hope in this otherwise somber and dark outlay of problems holding back the development of the region comes from the United Arab Emirates.
Indeed, despite low levels of transparency in government, and no accountability, the World Bank still places the UAE as probably the only Arab country without a rising trend towards violence.
The bottom line is that, in spite of the mega-billions the gulf countries are raking in, the image of the Arab world remains marred by extreme violence and conflicts.
By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com
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