After the Sheikhs
The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies
Author(s): Christopher M. Davidson
Reviewed by: Anthony McRoy, London, UK
The Arab Spring took everyone by surprise. No one envisaged that a spontaneous popular uprising for democracy would suddenly emerge in sleepy Tunisia before spreading to all corners of the Arab world. Dictators toppled, while others fought back. The Arab monarchies in the Gulf have largely managed to avoid the most serious challenges of the modern Arab awakening, with the exception of Bahrain, largely because the island kingdom is unique in being a Sunni monarchy ruling over a restive Shi[ah majority. The other Arab kingdoms, Jordan and Morocco, made somewhat ambiguous statements at the time about moving towards a British-style constitutional monarchy, although such ‘movement’ is not glaringly observable. The Gulf princes, in contrast to these two states, largely fought the Spring by a mixture of carrot and stick – the latter being severe repression, the former being an increase in the amount of largesse they distributed. Will such policies continue to work? Essentially, Davidson’s book answers this question in the negative. The Gulf princes are widely viewed as dinosaurs across the world, whose extinction is long overdue, a claim this book accepts and sees as imminent, largely because such a view is increasingly held among the Gulf populaces themselves. Of course, political prediction, as opposed to supernatural prophecy, is never infallible – it is based on analysis, rather than revelation. Analysis may be flawed, and new factors may disrupt the forecast. Nonetheless, Davidson believes that a combination of the example of other Arab states moving towards democratisation and demographic and technological developments in the Gulf States themselves point to some form of regime change in the near future.