"Colonel W. Patrick Lang, USA (Ret), spoke on The Islamic World Today at the 24 February Defense Intelligence Forum held at the Pulcinella Restaurant in McLean. Colonel Lang is a retired Army Military Intelligence, Special Forces, and Foreign Area Officer. In his last active duty assignment, he was Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and Terrorism. Following retirement, he became the first Director of the Defense HUMINT Service for which he was awarded Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive. He was the first Arabic Language professor at West Point. After leaving government, he served ten years as a business executive for a company operating in the Middle East and South Asia. He is a consultant for television and radio, including The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. He wrote Intelligence: the Human Factor, a definitive text on human intelligence collection operations, as well as several novels based on Confederate secret services in the Civil War. He is a VMI graduate and has a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Utah.
Lang explained that the unrest in the Arab/Islamic world stems from its having a huge population surplus of the young and unemployed. There is a pattern of large families in the Arab World, but no thought to family planning. The result is having two tectonic plates moving against one another: the autocratic regime vs. a growing dissatisfied citizenry.
In Egypt, it is difficult to predict the outcome of future elections and whether civilians will assume authority over the military. Nor did Lang predict if and when those in power would repeal the emergency decree. He did comment that the economic situation in Egypt will not change very quickly because there is not enough to go around. Egypt needs effective family planning before they can achieve political stability. When asked about the Muslim Brotherhood, Lang said that if they are patient and bide their time, they could eventually ascend to power. They would establish Shari'a Law and this would not be good for Egypt. It is best for Egypt to remain a secular state.
In Yemen, the government controls only a few tribes. The tribes are concentrated in a few towns and there is warfare between these towns and outlying areas. Lang commented that President Saleh, a Shia, directly participated in the assassination of the two preceding Presidents. Saleh hates al-Qaeda and Lang thinks that he will survive the current unrest.
Bahrain is ruled by Sunni Muslims and is closely (politically and geographically) aligned to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Royals are not going to let the unrest in Bahrain spread.
Libya has a population of 5 million spread among disparate regions. The state was created by the Italians. The former King was supported only by his own tribe. In 1969, a Signal Corps Captain, Qaddafi conducted a coup and the King was disposed. The current unrest is following Tunisia's example of a population rebelling against Qaddafi's long-standing autocratic regime.
Tunisia is a prime example of the blending of French and Arabic cultures. Of all the countries in the Arab World, it was the logical place for a revolution to occur. It was an example of a “Revolution of Rising Expectations.” Lang explained that the population must experience some degree of success in order to revolt. The Tunisians are somewhat advanced, are well-educated, and now want more.
Young King Abdullah of Jordan is willing to relinquish some concessions to his people and switch to a constitutional monarchy. However, if there were a revolt and it escalated to large-scale bloodshed, Abdullah would probably abdicate.
When asked about the outlook for a revolt in Iran, Lang replied that the level of unhappiness there is not yet high enough to foment change."
Official DIAAA summary of talk.