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The Arab World's unrest: Who are the winners and losers?

By Willis Sparks

The unrest now rattling North Africa and the Middle East generates new headlines each day. Today, it's an announcement from Morocco's King Mohammed VI that important constitutional reforms are on the way. It's a report that Qaddafi loyalists have pushed rebels from a couple of important port cities in eastern Libya and news that France has become the first country to recognize the rebels as Libya's legitimate government. It's the news that the Gulf Cooperation Council has promised to provide $10 billion each to member states Bahrain and Oman to help restore confidence in their stability amid ongoing protests.

But beyond the Middle East, the upheaval is producing a lengthening list of winners and losers. Here are a few of them:

Winners

Security hawks within China Security Ministry and military

The Chinese Communist Party leadership is a pretty risk-averse group, and recent turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East has strengthened the argument of those within the security forces and People's Liberation Army who say Beijing must never underestimate the dangers of quickly evolving technological and foreign policy challenges. Given the threat to Arab autocracies splashing across the headlines, we can expect China to devote still larger volumes of state resources to monitor social networking and other tools of modern communication -- and to further develop cyber capabilities generally. And just as the British military was able to evacuate British nationals from Libya, and with more Chinese than ever working abroad in sometimes volatile places, China's military will be in stronger position to win the extra resources it wants to assert China's interests abroad.

Laurent Gbagbo

Four months ago, Cote d'Ivoire's President Laurent Gbagbo stood for re-election against challenger Alassane Ouattara. The United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union agree that Ouattara won a fair contest. But Gbagbo has refused to accept defeat, and efforts at mediation have gone nowhere. The defeated incumbent has shrugged off international pressure for a graceful exit -- or any exit -- and hundreds of people have been killed in the resulting violence. With so much attention on events in the Arab world, there's not much international consensus on what to do about Gbagbo. Cote d'Ivoire is the world's leading producer of cocoa. That might boost international attention if so many of us weren't staring at the price of oil these days. 

Ethanol producers

Turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly among major energy producers like Libya, Algeria -- and in Bahrain and Yemen, which border the biggest oil producer of them all -- has helped push oil prices past $100 per barrel. That's good news for ethanol producers in the United States, who will profit from a widening separation between prices for ethanol and gasoline.           

Losers

Russian arms dealers

Russian weapons dealers have seen the door close (at least temporarily) on a Libyan arms market worth some $2 billion. Yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree that prevents Russian firms from providing the Libyan government with "all types of arms and related materials, including weapons and ammunition, combat vehicles and military hardware." The move was intended in part to ease international pressure for imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya or any other form of direct military intervention there. We don't know how long the ban will last, but money will be lost in the near term.

Hugo Chavez

Until earlier this week, there was an 11,000-seat football stadium in the eastern Libyan town of Benina named for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But the support Chavez has offered the embattled Qaddafi has angered the Libyan rebels who now control Benina, and they have renamed the arena Martyrs of February Stadium.

Willis Sparks in an analyst in Eurasia Group's Global Macro practice.

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