Anti-government protesters trample the visage of newly named Iraqi prime minister-designate Mohammad Allawi – viewed as a member of the country’s ruling elite – in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on February 3. (Sabah Arar/AFP via Getty Images)

Raging against the Arab Elites (AUDIO INTERVIEW)

The Media Line speaks with noted Middle Eastern analyst Hussein Ibish about several countries convulsed by anti-government protests

Iraq and Lebanon have been seeing widespread and often violent street unrest since October. It is not considered anywhere near a civil war of the type that has wracked Syria, the country that separates them, since 2011, but the domestic strife has left them just short of paralyzed.

Both countries face severe sectarian issues. Lebanon chafes under an outdated arrangement from the 1940s that allocates positions of governance to specific confessional groups. To the east, mostly Shi’ite Iraq is still healing from decades of iron-fisted rule by the Sunni Saddam Hussein.

Both also suffer from deeply ingrained perceptions among the population of managerial ineptitude, financial waste and rampant corruption, not to mention outside interference from Iran.

Yet if one rallying cry is being heard in the streets, it is “Out with the old, in with the new,” a demand that not only the systems be changed, but the people behind them, often families or cliques whose hands have been stirring the pots – and dipping into the tills – for generations.

This is not limited to Lebanon and Iraq. The same is happening in Algeria and Sudan, two countries where popular unrest unseated powerful dictators this past year, yet left in place despised ruling elites that restive populations continue to want gone.

To make sense of the phenomenon, The Media Line spoke with Dr. Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

Dr. Hussein Ibish, Part 1:

 

Dr. Hussein Ibish, Part 2:

 

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