The Quiet Arab Spring No One Hears About

Too Little, Too Late, Too Insulting
The Cleverest Move Yet by Ambassador Robert Ford
The Arab Curse

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are experiencing a dramatic shift in the ways their governments function and the waning influence single men with titles wield that very few people are familiar with.

In the post oil embargo of 1973, the new wealth the GCC governments were blessed with was instrumental in dispatching annually waves of GCC students to countries like the US (their favorite) and European capitals to learn a new trade or profession.

The first few waves were mostly composed of sons and cousins of rulers (At the American University where I studied, there were two GCC heirs studying for their B.A. in Business). However, since the eighties, countries like Saudi Arabia have been dispatching commoners to the US on full scholarships to acquire a university education in a variety of fields.

Most attention was given to educating a new cadre of bureaucrats to assume, upon their return, responsibilities that foreigners were entrusted with. Over the last 30 years or so, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have experienced a new slow revolution of sort by a cadre of well educated, now experienced bureaucrats capable of running governments.

As their numbers swelled, these bureaucrats found themselves at a crossroad: Will they turn a blind eye to corruption and cronyism or will they flex their muscles to force their will unto rulers much less educated and knowledgeable than they are? This is the real Arab Spring very few people fully grasp; even less so are US companies still practicing the strategy of associating themselves with one powerful businessman or ruler to gain access to contracts and favors.

A good example of this dramatic change taking place in the GCC, which will, I believe, eventually lead to a Parliamentarian system of government, is the example set by the project to overhaul the education system of Saudi Arabia.

The project is quite immense in scope and purpose. It starts out slow but will extend over many years to reform the whole educational system of the country.

Many large organizations were involved in bidding for the work. After many months of behind-the-scene influence peddling, a Malaysian company was awarded the contract mainly influenced by the Islamists and the rulers who wanted the system to remain purified and Muslim-oriented. The bureaucrats, on the other hand, favored a US company with many years of experience across the globe.

Approximately six months after the award, the contract was quietly rescinded and redirected to the US company. Many credit the work of the bureaucrats on the inside in this unusual transfer and taking a courageous position against their rulers for what is best for the country.

Today, the GCC and other Arab countries are experiencing many such transfers of power to a less corrupt and more educated lots than the ones ruling. The power of the rulers is waning when it comes to domestic policies at the hand of the very same bureaucrats dispatched to the west to get the education to run their countries.

This quiet revolution is mostly affecting domestic polices but as these bureaucrats witness the follies of the foreign policy of the Arab League, it won’t be long before they impose themselves by favoring policies more attuned towards benefitting their country rather than a single ruling family.

The ruling Arab families, very much out of touch with reality, are unaware that these bureaucrats have already started to impose themselves because of what is happening in Syria. Many feel that it is their duty to act to save any people from being massacred by one ruling family or another.

In my humble opinion, it won’t end until a GCC country falls in the hands of these bureaucrats willing to undermine their own rulers for the greater good.


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