Intifada update

AFP reports:

Yemeni security forces shot dead 17 anti-regime demonstrators and wounded scores more on Monday, on the second day of lethal clashes in Taez, south of the capital, medics said.

“The death toll has gone up to 17, in addition to dozens wounded,” said Sadeq al-Shujaa, head of a makeshift field hospital at a square in central Taez, updating an earlier casualty toll.

The bloodshed came as demonstrators staged a march on the governorate headquarters in the city about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the capital to demand the ouster of Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The New York Times reports:

The United States, which long supported Yemen’s president, even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials.

The Obama administration had maintained its support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in private and refrained from directly criticizing him in public, even as his supporters fired on peaceful demonstrators, because he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. This position has fueled criticism of the United States in some quarters for hypocrisy for rushing to oust a repressive autocrat in Libya but not in strategic allies like Yemen and Bahrain.

That position began to shift in the past week, administration officials said. While American officials have not publicly pressed Mr. Saleh to go, they have told allies that they now view his hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should leave.

A Yemeni official said that the American position changed when the negotiations with Mr. Saleh on the terms of his potential departure began a little over a week ago.

“The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning” of those negotiations, the official said, but have not said so publicly because “they still were involved in the negotiations.”

Those negotiations now center on a proposal for Mr. Saleh to hand over power to a provisional government led by his vice president until new elections are held. That principle “is not in dispute,” the Yemeni official said, only the timing and mechanism for how he would depart.

The Yemen Observer adds: “Yemen’s opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) has presented a five-point plan on Saturday that outlines the details of how President Ali Abdullah Saleh should hand over power.”

Lamis Andoni writes:

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, insists on believing that his support for the ”resistance against Israel” distinguishes his regime from others in the region and, therefore, makes it immune to the revolutions that have brought down pro-Western presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

His support for Hamas and Hezbollah may make the Syrian president more popular among Arabs, but he is engaged in dangerous delusions if he thinks this makes the killings of peaceful Syrian protesters less reprehensible.

The eruption of Arab revolutions has been a reaction to decades of repression and the skewed distribution of wealth; two problems that have plagued anti- and pro-Western Arab governments alike.

And Syria is one of the most repressive states in the region; hundreds, if not thousands, of people have disappeared into its infamous prisons. Some reappear after years, some after decades, many never resurface at all.

Syrians have not been the only victims. Other Arabs – Lebanese who were abducted during the decades of Syrian control over its neighbour, Jordanian members of the ruling Baath party who disagreed with its leadership and members of different Palestinian factions – have also been victimised.

Syrian critics of the regime are often arrested and charged – without due process – with serving external – often American and Israeli – agendas to undermine the country”s “steadfastness and confrontational policies”.

But these acts have never been adequately condemned by Arab political parties and civil society, which have supported Syria”s position on Israel while turning a blind eye to its repressive policies.

The National reports:

From euphoria to stalemate: this is the epitaph of Bahrain’s recent experience in what some are calling the “Arab spring” of revolutionary movements.

What started out slowly in mid-February drawing a few hundred protesters gradually swelled beyond expectations into what looked like a semi-permanent presence of thousands of protesters who could, at a moment’s notice, be galvanised for marches anywhere in the capital, Manama.

Its base camp at the Pearl Roundabout had a stage, big TV screens, and tents for those who stayed overnight and for the 30-plus political factions and parties spreading their views among the crowds.

It was an exhilarating experience for many Bahrainis, angry about corruption and what they said was the government’s resistance to political reform.

“We saw it as something incredible,” said one woman who became a regular visitor to Pearl Roundabout. “This gave us hope. We felt like, as Barack Obama, said, ‘Yes, we can’.”

Today, the protest movement is in tatters, many of its leaders and activists imprisoned and its followers, most of them Shiite, subject to harsh emergency laws. Where Tunisia and Egypt saw change, Bahrain saw more of the same.

The clampdown continued yesterday, as Bahraini authorities banned Al Wasat, the country’s main opposition newspaper, and blocked its website.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency accused the paper of “unethical” coverage of the unrest.

Several days of interviews with Bahraini Sunni and Shiite political figures, human rights activists and journalists underscore that the tense impasse is due to mistakes on all sides, but principally, in most analyses, to the ascendancy of hardliners in both the government and the protest movement.

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One thought on “Intifada update

  1. Alex Bell

    And not a word of ‘No Fly Zones’ or any other intervention there, or in Bahrein, or on the Ivory Coast. I guess the civilians there don’t count as much as the ones in Libya.

    Or perhaps there are two levels of difference: The Ivory Coast doesn’t have any oil, and Yemen and Bahrein/Saudi Arabia have too much.

    Regards, Alex

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