Middle East Despot Watch

I’ve been watching developments in the Middle East and Northern Africa closely.? It can be hard to keep track of it all.? Fortunately, the prediction markets at?InTrade provide a useful barometer.

Which despots will be gone by the end of this year?? Here are the current odds — click through to see these prices fluctuate as the situation develops.

  • Libya — Gadaffi😕83%
  • Bahrain — Al Khalifa😕62%
  • Yemen — Ali Abdullah Saleh😕48%
  • Iran — Ahmadinejad😕16%
  • Iran — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei😕15%

It will be interesting to see how correlated movements are.? I can already see the title of the paper waiting to be written: “Is revolution contagious?? Evidence from Prediction Markets.”

Ian Kemmish

If it is contagious, then it was all triggered by the unrest in Tunis.

And if it was all triggered by Tunis, then it was ultimately caused by the spike in food prices.

There are some people who believe that the spike in food prices was in turn caused by hedge funds.

According to this theory, then already, even if nobody else falls, these hedge funds have achieved more regime change in three weeks than Dubya, aided and abetted by Gawd and Tony Blair (who may or may not be the same person) acting in concert managed in ten whole years.

There might be a entertaining paper to be written about whether this means hedge funds really are the spawn of the devil, or merely a blessing in a very good disguise....


this is also the historic propaganda line against nationalist governments- our covert and overt actions in central america were justified by the memes of a "bad apple" or "cancer" description of national movements, which were feared to spread, thus threatening regional hegemony

Joshua Northey

To me those Iranian number seem ridiculously high. Simple wishful thinking? People in the know about future foreign policy actions?

If we were going to move against Iran this might be the year to do it, but we have kind of expended most of our ability to casually project power in the last decade and need a quiet period before further misadventures.

Joe in Jersey

@ Ian Kemmish

Funny because it's true. It's about power (mostly money). Besides Gandhi, can you name a leader that wasn't wealthier than his followers. Doesn't happen often.


More despots walking on thin ice: Walker? Kasich? 10% each. Boehner? Rove? Palin? Murdoch? Limbaugh? Beck? O'Reilly? (Removed from power, or the airwaves)? 5% each.

also, what about Kim? 10%?


Is revolution contagious? I believe they call it "domino theory."

Adam Siegel

On Inkling Market, the results for a related question:

Which other countries will follow Egypt and Tunisia in successfully overthrowing their government by the end of 2011?

Libya: 83.15% chance
Bahrain: 45.91% chance
Yemen: 31.78% chance
Iran: 27.53% chance
Algeria: 27.21% chance
Syria: 10.23% chance


I like Inkling Market's predictions; they seem more rooted in reality than wishful thinking. I also agree with the previous commentor that the Iran numbers look exceedingly high. I see no scenario under which the clerical establishment fractures in Iran the way the Army and political classes diverged in Egypt. Similar to Libya, they have exclusive access to weapons and the will to use them. In Yemen, the populace is itself so heavily armed that they stand at least a shot at a successful armed uprising. In Bahrain, the same US pressure to limit civilian casualties may enable the protesters to increase their momentum; the end game escapes me though. Slate has a good piece on how this moment compares to 1848, essentially the start of major disruptions in Europe. Definitely worth a look.


The level of stupidity, ignorance and racism in your argument is undeniable.
An interesting way to dismiss all micro-democratization processes in the M.E by simply claiming that the people on the streets are simply too "hungry" to be ruled by despotic governments.
I dont think a hungry person would bother to pursue any democratic demands, particularly in the fashion that we are witnessing in Iran and Egypt. Paradoxically, in some cases (i.e. Iran and Bahrain) in-direct cash handouts were given to the poorest segments of the society in order to keep them out of the streets. We both know that the latter policy has proved to be an utter failure.
The social understanding in the region has reached to an extent that is able to digest democracy as a method of governance. Whether these movements will lead to an all out democratization phase in the middle-east is a matter of debate, but what remains important is the fact that the spirit of each and every one of these uprisings has been democratic at heart. To dismiss the latter with an orientalist anecdote is simply a racist act.


Mike B

I hope Gadaffi holds on. He is critical to the World's supply of comic relief. Relying on Kim Jong Il jokes can get stale and its a lot harder to impersonate by the diplomatic corps and non-Asian world leaders.


I think that it would be hard to conclude whether these revolutions are part of a contagion, or whether the countries involved share a number of "perfect storm" ingredients. However, if a number of countries suddenly piled onto the revolution bandwagon following the success of Egypt's protestors, then perhaps protestors from other countries will be encouraged to follow suit (i.e., the penguin effect).


A.S. makes a good point ; however, taking into account Ian Kemmish's point and the fundamentals of the grain markets contributing to unprecedented price inflation, the truth seems to be a combination of the two dynamics.

The key catalysts in all of these uprisings has been a combination of the lower/laborer classes who have reached a breaking point spending upwards of 25-30% of income on basic foodstuffs with political change in the back of their minds and youth/socially active groups with it in the forefront of theirs. Add 2 parts excessive repression and the result is widespread uprising


Peope protesting in Iran are modern upper middle class, it is closer to protests in Venezuela and Bolivia than those in M.E. Ahmadinejad started to redistributed the wealth before protests and came to power by fighting crruption, we woulld similar protests to those in M.E. in Iran if he was a populist.