Sara Akbar, chief executive of Kuwait Energy, an independent oil and gas company focused on the region, brought to the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ annual energy conference in Houston what she called a “view from the street” on the North Africa/Middle East tensions.
Akbar said that although the region was made up of disparate countries, they had enough similarities that one spark had set off change throughout. Even in Kuwait – which she noted had a very stable political system – there were calls for change. And the calls across the region, she said, were welcome:
This is a big, positive step to the future. Everyone is very happy with what is happening. We see the end to dictatorship…. It will enhance the economies of the region…. It will be a bumpy road for all… It will take a long time to get there, to have stable democracies. That is what we want to be. We want to be real countries.
She hoped the US would not get involved, despite the talk of recent days, and warned that any attempt to intervene in the civil war in Libya, for example, would be viewed poorly in the region. The Middle East was a place ripe with conspiracy theories, she said, and any attempt by the US to get involved would fuel them. In her words:
What the US should do is be neutral. It will be very badly perceived by the people on the ground if they take sides.
That is not to say that she believed the world community should stay away. Indeed, Akbar called on the global community – as long as it was not led by the US – to take the lead in stopping the killings in Libya: “Something has to be done because this crazy guy is killing the people.”
James Placke, IHS Cera senior associate, echoed her warning against a US-led intervention: “That’s a point I hope Washington will grasp. I hope Washington will listen to you, Sara.”