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Top Ten Middle East Crises, 2009

10. Dubai, a financial hub of the Gulf, collapsed economically, and worries were raised that Dubai World could default on billions in loans. Only the likelihood that oil-rich sister emirate, Abu Dhabi, would likely bail Dubai out at least to some extent kept there from being a panic.

9. That Iraq is still far from stable was demonstrated by two major bombing campaigns by the Sunni Arab resistance, in mid-August and in late October. Both blasts damaged government ministries, killed experienced diplomats and managers, and showed the vulnerability of the new government to concerted attack.

8. Yemen fell apart, facing a Shiite Huthi rebellion in Saada, in which Saudi Arabia is now intervening, as well as tribal/ fundamentalist opposition and the reemergence of a vital al-Qaeda movement in Maarib. Conflict over water and other rural resources drives this descent into a failed state. This one spilled over on Detroit when al-Qaeda in Yemen responded to US and Yemeni army attacks on Maarib by targeting a Northwest Airliner on Christmas day.

7. Pakistan’s conflict in the rural, Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas with militant Taliban spilled over into the more populous, urban, and religiously more open Punjab.

6. Afghan President Hamid Karzai stole the presidential election of August, 2009, destroying the credibility of his government. The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan grew in strength, to the point of forming a shadow government.

5. A creeping coup by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran led to the stealing of the June presidential election by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The resulting combination of the most rightwing government seen in Iran since the 1980s and popular resistance threw the country into turmoil.

4. Israel elected its most rightwing government in history, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, widely considered a racialist nationalist and loose canon, which promptly obstructed President Obama’s renewed peace process

3. Mahmoud Abbas, moderate president of the Palestine Authority, announced his intention to resign because there was no progress on peace negotiations with Israel, which refuses to cease colonizing Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

2. Israel’s Gaza War failed and discredited it, leading to the issuance of Goldstone report to the UN on Israeli war crimes. The outcome is major roadblock in the face of further peace negotiations.

1. Meantime, Gazans live under Israeli blockade, lacking enough food, electricity and other services for a decent life, and there is no end in sight. A major recent Oxfam report [pdf] concludes that the world has failed Gaza and that a year later, Gaza’s deliberately-destroyed infrastructure and buildings are mostly still in rubble and innocent Gazans continue to suffer. An international aid convoy is being blocked from entering Gaza by Israel, and Egypt insists it must come in through El Areesh. The Muslim world seethes at the news of Palestinian suffering in Gaza every night as the West ignores its plight.


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