Five countries that may rise up next
Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate under fireworks at Cairo's Tahrir Square after president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011. (Getty Images)
March 9th, 2012
01:01 PM ET

Five countries that may rise up next

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

Is the Arab Spring over? Or are there other countries that might rise up in the year ahead? Wikistrat asked its global community of analysts to consider this question. Here’s what they came up with:

1) Algeria

Up to now the regimes that have fallen - Libya, Tunisia, Egypt - have been led by strongman dictators who kept a lid on religious extremism. With Syria in flames and Yemen undergoing gradual reforms, that leaves only Algeria’s strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Yes, last year street protests erupted in Algeria first - before protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya toppled those regimes - but the modestly oil-rich regime was able to buy off some protesters, crackdown on others, and use the fear of returning to 1990s civil war as a way to dampen the momentum of the opposition.

Over the past year, the regime of Bouteflika has not taken steps to address the issues raised by demonstrators. It even went so far as to support Moammar Gadhafi. So keep your eye on Algeria. Parliamentary elections are coming up on March 10 and if there is any sign of fraud by the ruling regime, the Arab Spring may return to its birthplace.

2) Bahrain

The Arab Spring to date has seen a number of politically oppressed Sunni majorities rise up and reclaim their Islamic identity. We’re running out of those situations. Now the Shia uprisings could commence – most notably in Bahrain.

However, the Persian Gulf royal families are likely to go all out to protect one of their own from instability. Within the Gulf Cooperation Council ranks, there is more than enough oil wealth and military hardware (provided mostly by the U.S.) to keep a firm grip on things.

3) “Greater Kurdistan”?

How things unfold in Syria could easily trigger follow-on crises in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Jordan, and Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Toss in the fact that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is allegedly ill and the Syrian dynamic could easily mushroom into a wider regional crisis, perhaps one triggering a push by Syria and Turkey’s Kurdish minorities to connect up with the KRG in the eternal dream of Greater Kurdistan. It’s not clear, however, that any of this would constitute an expansion of the Arab Spring democratization wave. Instead, much of it could easily devolve into simple sectarian violence.

4) Saudi Arabia

The most likely way Syria’s civil war goes super-critical is for the region’s primary rivals (Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran) to ramp up their existing meddling. But, in truth, all that would do is re-purpose Syria as a full-blown proxy conflict - a time-honored regional game typically centered on Palestine-v-Israel. In the end, the serious game remains Iran’s reach for the bomb and the rest of the regional kingpins’ loosely collective efforts to stave off that development.

Against that strategic backdrop, every regime presumably vulnerable to the Arab Spring’s dynamics is highly incentivized to crush any such domestic rumblings, lest they divert regime attention from what really matters.

For example, as recently as last October, Saudis were openly accusing Iran of fomenting Shiia unrest in their Eastern Province, so it's clear that Riyadh considers Tehran pre-approved for a hostile response if anything actually erupts - Arab Spring style - within its borders. Add in the sudden targeting of Saudi diplomats around the world - tied directly to Iran in the recent U.S.-based plot - and it's not hard to imagine the Kingdom deciding to press the matter more directly. Recent Saudi and Qatari decisions to arm Syrian rebels play into this growing hostility.

So yes, one can always imagine Iran doing its best to stir up trouble among its oppressed co-religionists on the other side of the Gulf, but - again - that’s a manipulation of the Arab Spring and not its natural unfolding. Sadly, the same thing would be true about any outside efforts to support Iran’s Green Movement, which is likewise captive to this overarching strategic struggle.

5) North Sudan or Ethiopia

Finally, if we’re looking for a potential regional breakout from the Middle East and North Africa, we might logically turn our strategic gaze to East Africa, where either (now North) Sudan or Ethiopia could soon fall victim to some serious bottom-up political unrest that takes its cue from the Arab Spring.

As is the geo-strategic norm these days, China and America are tangentially involved as patrons to the authoritarian regimes in, respectively, Khartoum and Addis Ababa, but neither superpower is particularly wedded to the leaders in question. China will buy Sudanese oil one way or the other, and American drones will hunt Al Shaabab terrorists one way or the other. So, while most everyone would like to see nicer regimes in both states, they are simply no great strategic relationships put at risk here – unlike the case of Syria.

The bottom line is this: Other trees may threaten to fall in this forest, but nobody will hear them as long as Syria rages on, especially with the Iranian bomb dynamic hanging in the background. The Arab Spring may just have met its “Gettysburg” moment, meaning its high-water mark. It might just be counter-revolutions from here on out.

That’s Wikistrat's somewhat depressing “wisdom of the crowd” for this week.

Now tell us which path you find most plausible, or what other countries you can envision rising up in the comments section below. And be sure to check out more at Wikistrat.com, a cutting-edge global consultancy.

Topics: Middle East

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Bob M

    The problem is Iran. Sanctions have pushed Iran to provoke and encourage Middle East urest to increase Oil Speculation and prices to offset the sanctions imposed on their country. The current government in Iran needs to be eliminated by the Gulf Cooperation Ranks who want stability and peace in the Middle East.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Such is to be expected from someone like you with your obvious limitations. Iran has absolutely nothing to do with any of these uprisings as anyone with half a brain should know. These uprisings are caused by internal economic conditions and right-wing rulers who couldn't care less!!!

      March 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Do you think that the new Arab rulers will be any better, George? or they'll blame someone else and NOT Israel and trhe US for their failures?

        March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Indeed, it's extremely interesting to see how the Arab Spring plays itself out. Despite the overthrow of a few autocratic regimes we would unlikely see a new world order established in the region, as history there tends to repeat itself, Suppression and economic hardship will be just old wine in new bottles for the people there.

        March 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  2. ilfdinar

    algeria's election are on may 12 even if the lower house is lost the senate and the presidency is still there

    March 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • Ian

      The elections are May 10 not May 12 at least according to the President of Algeria, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-02-09/algeria-elections/53031590/1

      March 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  3. George Patton

    What do one mean that Yemen is undergoing reforms? That's not true either. In fact, Saleh is still in control from abroad ruling through his right hand man in Sanna'a, thus remaining a pro-Western dictatorship. The Kurds in both Turkey and Iraq need to demand their well deserved independence and stage a joint uprising to achieve it if this can't be done peacefully.

    March 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • GOK

      Make sure you have enough body bags if you want a piece of Turkish territory, we sure as hell payed with it in BLOOD.

      March 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  4. GokTurk

    The death of one Turk (Erdogan) would hardly embolden the Kurds.

    March 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  5. 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

    Well, if we go to according to Religion, The Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, doesn't allow, Christians to hate others. Rather, the Bible said, 'Love your enemy'.

    And also, unlike, the rest of the World, Ethiopian Christian + Muslim Religions, we love each other, from the beginning of the Muslim Religion until now and for the future.
    The Foreign Political interferences also, unlikely to happen. Because, there are no sufficient reasons.

    However, uprising in Nigeria will be a 90% chance. No doubt. The Islamic Boku-haram, proofed it most often.

    March 10, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply
  6. bubba

    Just five countries?

    March 10, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
  7. iran and the shiiazim are evil attack iran now and we will get red of syria and all the terrorists

    dont allow iran to enter the immunity zone in any price.................Imagine if hitler did that you , your mothers and sisters and all your family will be slaves to the nazzies...iran muslims evil thugs of shiia cults are worse than hitler , make no mistake iran will use any thing because they want to start a war as this is will bring what so called AL MAHDI AL MONTADHAR....it is like the shiia massaiua to them , and the only way the MAHDI WILL COME BACK IS BY WAR, KILLING ZENA MOTAA ADULTERY AND CAIOUS thats what the sick shiia doctorine says in the books...fk all shiia and remove them from this earth and send them to the 4o vergins that they are waiting for...even some are dreaming to sleep with vergin mary in heaven cause she is vergin , so they pray extra prayers to see who is the one will be the lucky one to sleep with her in heaven that what they teach.

    March 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  8. BAZITA

    Nothing is goind to happen in Algeria , at least not now , the wound are still fresh and the Algerian are fully aware and careful not to repeat the senario of the 90′s where 250.000 lost thier life. having sad that i think more strikes will emerge in different sectors …… the upcoming election will be a fiasco ! the Algerian will boycote the Election massively ! ………this is will redeem the ultimate power of the regime and will be forced to make some ral changes .....if this is not done ! well expect an uprising ......i think the Algerian regime have a golden last chance to do some seriouse reforms

    March 15, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
  9. BAZITA

    Algerians are more aware and carefull not to drag the country into chaos , if there is any changes in Algeria , it will be done in a very peaceful way ! ......having sad that , more countries like the QATARIS & it's allies will try to shake the Algerian streets !.... more plot will be aimed in this direction , but the Algerian people will prevail ( in chaa Allah ) .

    March 15, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  10. nuc um

    may they all fade into the sands of time.

    March 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  11. Kern Huerta

    CNN you guys are forgetting Three other very important nations. America is ripe for a Revolution, China is on the verge of Revolution, and Russia has been ready for Revolution. O yah I almost forgot the entire European continent is ripe for Revolution.

    American will have its Second Revolutionary war by the End of the Year.

    April 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply

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