The head of Burkina Faso’s armed forces has announced the dissolution of the national assembly and the creation of a national transitional government to last a maximum of 12 months. “A transitional body will be put in place in consultation with all parties,” General Honore Traore told a news conference after a day of violent protests in the capital. He did not say who would lead the transitional body. Earlier, President Blaise Compaore declared a state of emergency in Burkina Faso following the wave of violence.
Sanaa is about to fall in the hands of the Houthis. It is true they reached the city three times before and each time they would retreat at the last minute. But this time seems different. Abdel Malik al-Houthi’s group seems determined to reach its objective. It wants to clearly translate its military power and the influence of its regional alliances into political power and a piece of the Yemeni cake. The regional conflict with Saudi Arabia clearly constitutes a large part of the picture.
A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
Tensions also mounted in Crimea, in the southeast of Ukraine, where pro-Russian politicians are organizing rallies and forming protest units, demanding autonomy from Kyiv. The region is now seen as a potential flashpoint because of its deep strategic significance to Moscow. Ukraine is deeply divided between its eastern regions, which are largely pro-Russian, and western areas that widely detest Yanukovych. The Crimean port of Sevastopol may be part of Ukraine, but it is the Russian tricolour that flutters proudly above the port’s barrack blocks and warships.
Thailand’s army chief warned on Monday the country risks “collapse” unless it pulls back from escalating violence after attacks in recent days left three children dead in the kingdom’s worst political unrest since 2010. Twenty-one people have now been killed and more than 700 wounded in violence linked to almost four months of anti-government demonstrations. Protesters want to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and dilute the influence on Thai politics of her billionaire brother Thaksin, a former premier who lives in exile to avoid jail in Thailand for corruption.
For months now, protestors have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all these places, protestors are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won election in relatively free polls. And in nearly all these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities.
The situation in Iraq’s western Sunni-majority Anbar province is both confused and confusing but could lead to an all-out Sunni rebellion against the Shia-dominated government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The latest trouble between Baghdad and Anbar began with the arrest of Ahmed al-Alwani, an opposition parliamentarian on December 28. Security men stormed his home in Anbar’s capital, Ramadi, wounding Alwani and killing his brother and five body guards. On December 30, army and special operations units moved into Ramadi to dismantle a year-old protest camp located on the outskirts of the restive city.
Ukrainians taking to the streets to protest their government’s refusal to strike a trade deal with the European Union may be the first of several post-Soviet states facing the choice between Russia and Europe as Georgia and Moldova gear up for their place on the bargaining table.
Decades have passed since they each gained their sovereignty, but post-Soviet states west of the Eurasian divide continue to struggle between their European identities and the influence and benefits that can come from allying with Russia.
About 100 police were injured on Sunday in clashes that broke out as 100,000 outraged Ukrainians swarmed Kiev in a call for early elections meant to punish authorities for rejecting a historic EU pact. The crowd chanted “Revolution!” and “Down with the gang” as it took control of Kiev’s iconic Independence Square, while protesters steered a bulldozer within striking distance of police barricades protecting the nearby presidential adminstration office.
Meanwhile in Sudan: Fuel riots, a hiring spree of ex-Soviet air mercenaries and preparations for war
The escalating fuel riots in Khartoum, and increasingly in other cities in Sudan, serve as a stark reminder of the inherent fragility and instability of the country. The riots were sparked by the spiraling prices of all fuel products following the abolition of subsidies and the growing shortages of all fuel products. Moreover, the recurring shortages of fuel have resulted in shortages of food and other products and goods brought into Khartoum from both the Red Sea ports and the countryside. Within a few days, the riots became the worst since the 1989 riots which led to the military coup which brought Omar Bashir to power.
The special session of the Bahraini National Assembly held on Sunday Jul. 28 was a spectacle of venom, a display of vulgarity, and an unabashed nod to increased dictatorship. Calling the Shia “dogs”, as one parliamentarian said during the session, which King Hamad convened, the Al-Khalifa have thrown away any hope for national reconciliation and dialogue. The 22 recommendations approved during the session aimed at giving the regime pseudo-legal tools to quash dissent and violate human and civil rights with impunity. All in the name of fighting “terrorism”.
There are concerns as the political upheaval grows, elements of the former regime of Zein Abidine Ben Ali, driven from power in January 2011, retain considerable influence and maintain ties with the labor unions and the internal security forces and could try to stage a comeback.
The cause of Tunisia’s slide toward anarchy was the assassination Thursday of secular opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi, a member of the 217-seat parliament who represented the central city of Sidi Bouzid, his hometown.
The youth riots in Brazil, Chile, the European Union, the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and even the “Occupy” movement in the West all reflect what political theory broadly calls the “legitimacy crisis” of modern democracy – the notion that participation in democratic politics does little to change the actual process of government, that elites are dug-in and immoveable, that cronyism is endemic, and so on. Young voters particularly become cynical of the formal electoral process, either dropping out in disdain, or expressing their grievances “extra-parliamentarily”, i.e., on the street.
Eastern European states had clearer goals in their 1990s transitions, writes Tony Barber. So it is in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, two-and-a-half years after the eruption of the Arab Spring, and so it was just over 20 years ago in central and eastern Europe after the fall of communism. The differences between the two regions are, for the most part, more striking than the similarities. In one fundamental respect, however, they have something in common: a period of transition in which the struggle for a settled constitutional and political order and economic progress is long and hard-fought.
Algeria is competing to be the next Arab nation to witness a popular revolt. That is assuming soccer is a barometer of rising discontent in a region experiencing a wave of mass protests that have already toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and sparked civil war in Syria.
In fact, there is increasingly little doubt that soccer, a historic nucleus of protest in Algeria, is signaling that popular discontent could again spill into the streets of Algiers and other major cities.
Marines and other U.S. forces in Europe are on a heightened state of alert in response to a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, a U.S. military official said Friday.
The alert order applies to a U.S. special operations team based in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as a Marine group of air and ground forces based in Moron, Spain, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The forces are under U.S. Africa Command, which acquired the special operations team in the fall.
Egypt ministers announced controversial plans to introduce a smart-card system that limits the amout of subsidized bread citizens can buy. The government would start rationing “after two months,” Supply Minister Bassem Ouda told Reuters earlier this week. Besides cutting subsidies, the severe economic crisis has forced the Islamist-led government to introduce rationing. Tension is already high in Egypt with the shortage of fuel, and economists have warned that restrictions on bread sales could cause a “revolution of the hungry.”
A lot of people in Europe, especially the French, cheered heedlessly when the Arab Spring took off in 2011. But then came the 70,000 dead from the Syrian war; the proliferation of terrorism in Libya and Mali; the assassination of the main Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid in a country where there is actually less freedom than before; and of course, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, knee deep in economic and social chaos.
The Arab Spring of these secular republics wasn’t as positive and peaceful as many had expected.
Thousands of unemployed Algerians protested on Thursday in the southern town of Ouargla, near the country’s most important oilfield, to demand jobs and an end to lawsuits against them, sources said.
“We are demanding the right to work and an end to the lawsuits against the jobless,” Abdelmalek Aibek, a representative of the town’s unemployed residents, said by phone. “There are thousands of us gathered in the square outside the town hall,” he said, adding that the protesters, “people out of work, but also trade unionists and human rights activists… have come from different locations.”
The events of the Arab Spring and the variables that have happened in Iraq after invading it in 2003, which led to the fall of the dictatorial rulers, caused authoritarian and political vacuum, over which the States whose governments still hold the reins of power in it have competed and thus have turned into powerful States. Qatar is one of these States that is small but yet have great ambitions and is supported and backed by the United States and Israel. It is clear that Qatar’s policy aims at strengthening its authority and role in the region at the expense of the Saudi role.
Clashes between protesters and the police in the restive Egyptian city of Port Said that entered their second day Monday have dragged in the military to a dramatic extent into the nation’s turmoil.
At times in the violence, frictions have arisen between the police that were battling protesters and army forces that tried to break up the fighting. Troops in between the two sides were overwhelmed by police tear gas, one army colonel was wounded by live fire, and troops even opened fire over the heads of police, bringing cheers from protesters.
The EED, by comparison, will not be a part of the EU, but rather independent, allowing it to take more outwardly political actions. Its scope will also be narrower, focused on Europe’s “neighbors,” a loosely-defined group of Mediterranean and Eastern European countries that includes, Pomianowski noted, many countries involved in the Arab Spring.
Taking off the political gloves. Koert Debeuf, a European parliamentarian whose blog posts on Egyptian political reform were recently discussed by the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Egyptian television, welcomes the EED’s stated goals. “I think Europe should try to find a way to stop being scared,” he told DW. “There are organizations [in Egypt], for example, that give media training to political parties and politicians. They exist, and no one wants to fund them.”
Dozens of Afghan villagers have taken up arms against the Taliban in one of their key southern heartlands, the latest in a series of such uprisings, villagers and officials say.
Analysts caution that the movements could be attempts by local militia leaders to reassert their authority ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops, or could be orchestrated as part of a government strategy. The uprising in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Islamist militants, was launched by a tribal elder at the weekend after the militia threatened to kill one of his sons for joining a US-backed community police force.
The majority of the hyperbole about Qatar seems to stem from the adage that there’s no smoke without fire. It is unsurprising that the Mayor of Gao accuses the Qataris of supporting terrorism. From his perspective he is making a heartfelt plea for French intervention and he sees the Qatari Red Crescent Society gaining access to territory held by MUJAO. Doubtless his arithmetic involves adding Qatar, the Wahhabi link, the rich Libyan-Islamist supporting Gulf State, with the Qatari Red Crescent gaining privileged access in MUJAO controlled territory; combined one comes to the conclusion that ‘Qatar’ is supporting the terrorists.
Bahrain’s paramilitary National Guard deployed into new areas around the violence-wracked Gulf nation Saturday in an apparent sign that authorities are stepping up efforts to quell political unrest.
Wider use of the Guard could signal a tougher strategy by Bahrain’s Sunni embattled monarchy as riot police struggle to contain the Shiite majority’s 21-month uprising.
Since the start of the Arab Spring in late 2010, the winds of change have been blowing near the Gulf states. However, customs and tradition are blocking their way. People are still not in a state of despair and more time is needed before these winds can enter. These winds remain in a state of suspension, courting the people and taunting the rulers, making progress at times and receding at other times.
Kuwait’s government has made clear it is willing and able to suppress unauthorized street protests, saying it must protect public safety, but risks provoking worse popular unrest by taking a hard line.
Police fired tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse thousands of Kuwaitis protesting over new voting rules late Sunday. Last month a prominent opposition figure was arrested after speaking at a protest rally where he appealed to the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to avoid “autocratic rule.”
One of the most curious of alliances in the Middle East have been the clandestine goings on between the Zionist State of Israel and the Saudi royal family, the guardians of Mecca, among the most conservative of Arab monarchs. As I wrote in a previous blog, that relationship is based on a venerable political tenet: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The common enemy, in this case, being Iran, radical Islam, and the political upheaval known as the Arab Spring.
“While CSI’s nominal purpose is to promote civil society, it is actually a branch of the National Security Service (NSS) and its true purpose is to prevent a color revolution in Uzbekistan,” the cable quotes the contact as saying. “The headquarters of CSI had also grown from roughly 200 personnel to 300 personnel” and “CSI closely monitors the behavior of non-government organizations, exchanges information with law enforcement agencies and the rest of the NSS, and reports to the Presidential Apparat [administration],” according to the cable.
A victory by protesters against the expansion of a chemical plant proves the new rule in China: The authoritarian government is scared of middle-class rebellion and will give in if the demonstrators’ aims are limited and not openly political.
It’s far from a revolution. China’s nascent middle class, the product of the past decade’s economic boom, is looking for better government, not a different one.
Kuwait risks sliding into Arab Spring-style protests over a forthcoming election that has polarized opinion in the Gulf Arab state and posed an unprecedented challenge to the authority of the once revered emir, a close Western ally. Kuwait saw some of the worst violence in its recent history when tens of thousands of demonstrators – out of a native population of just 1.2 million – protested this week at changes to election laws
It is almost impossible to raise the presidential rating in the PR ways, moreover, the Internet is becoming the main source of information, and the middle class is lost for the TV propaganda, the Centre of Strategic Studies reported. The experts expect disagreements in the key positions of the protesters and a new wave of making the movement stronger on a more developed political basis.
Followed by Egypt and Syria, “Muslim Brotherhood” trying to overthrow another secular regime – King Abdullah II of Jordan, perhaps the most moderate in the Arab world. King agreed to the dissolution of parliament and early elections, but that is not enough: they seek a change of government in which the monarch would remain purely symbolic function, and the real power will go to the premier Islamists. This evolution of the regime in Amman drastically change the political landscape of the Middle East, and the disastrous consequences it will have on the U.S. and Israel.
The Afghan government could fall apart after NATO troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year are fraudulent, a report by the International Crisis Group said Monday.
“There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO’s withdrawal,” said Candace Rondeaux, the ICG’s senior Afghanistan analyst. “The window for remedial action is closing fast.”
According to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the sweeping unrest has forced the GCC governments to spend $150 billion, in the first half of 2011, to appease widespread discontent of its populations.
Clear signs of unrest are evident in the GCC states. They have vast populations of underpaid workers, from Pakistan and India, and are governed by ruling families with little consideration for democracy. Bahrain has a Sunni ruling family, but the majority of its citizens are Shi’a. Saudi Arabia has a repressive regime ruled by old and ailing sons of the nation’s founder Ibn Saud. Furthermore, there is growing unrest on the southern part of the peninsula in Yemen.
The incidents that have hit Bahrain are a coup attempt supported by foreign forces, the Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, said on the anniversary of anti-government protests that swept the country last year.
In an interview with local Arabic daily Al Ayam, Shaikh Khalifa said that 22 NGOs have been plotting against Bahrain.
“Nineteen of them are based in the US and three in a Gulf country,” he said, without naming the Gulf state.
A group of Papua New Guinea soldiers mutinied on Thursday, seizing and replacing their chief commander in what could be a ploy to help former prime minister Sir Michael Somare return to power, the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) and local media reported.
The South Pacific nation has been plagued by political instability for weeks, jeopardizing its prospects as an investment destination just as US oil giant ExxonMobil develops a $15.7 billion liquefied natural gas plant, the country’s biggest-ever resource project.
As the year of revolution draws to a close, a new “parallel revolution” against corruption is emerging in Yemen. Over the past two weeks strikes have spread across the country and are proving effective, leading to the hope that this Yemeni uprising of 2011 can truly bring change to the Arab world’s poorest country. The chant of “Irhal, Irhal” – “Leave, Leave” – is now being directed at corrupt figures of authority throughout the country.
At least 10 people were killed Friday in violent clashes between police and demonstrators in an oil town in western Kazakhstan where workers have been protesting for higher wages, authorities said.
Prosecutor General Askhat Daulbayev said in a statement that the mayor’s office, a hotel and vehicles were set afire in Zhanaozen, a city of 90,000 in the far southwestern corner of the energy-rich Central Asian nation.
The clashes appear to be some of the largest unrest to hit the former Soviet republic since it gained independence in 1991.
The possible future is on display in tiny South Ossetia, a Kremlin protectorate that was the nexus of Russia’s 2008 war with neighbouring Georgia. Since last Wednesday, small crowds of South Ossetians have taken daily to the snowy streets of their capital city, Tskhinvali, to reject Kremlin’s attempt to overturn election results and impose a leader they don’t want. Calling it the “Snow Revolution” – a nod to the colour-coded revolts that brought down autocratic regimes in Ukraine and Georgia not so long ago – they vow not to leave until their chosen president, Alla Dzhioyeva, is allowed to take office.
China’s ruling Communist Party is looking within for threats to its control over the country, spending more money on securing its population of over one billion than it did on its military last year, according to a new report to the U.S. Congress.
Conflicts in the Middle East with the popular Arab Spring movement have done nothing to assuage the government’s fears, according to the report from a Congressional advisory panel.
“The party has created an extensive police and surveillance network to monitor its citizens and react to any potential threat to stability,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in the report.
Moves by an Iraqi Sunni-dominated province to demand autonomy from Baghdad and rumors of coup d’etat led by Ba’athists have Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki very worried about the prospects of a rebellion.
Such an “Iraqi Spring” would enjoy the full financial and political backing of Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince, Nayef Ibn Abdul-Aziz. In recent years Nayef has seen his country’s influence in Iraq drop dramatically as Tehran’s star rose.
The uprising would be very different to the Arab Spring. Instead of a grassroots revolt against an autocratic ruler, this would see Sunnis revolt against the Shi’ite politicians imposed on them since Iran established its hegemony over Iraqi politics in 2003.
Syria’s precarious sectarian balance makes it prone to the threat of civil war. A minority Alawite elite rules over a majority Sunni Muslim population and sizable minorities of Christians and Kurds. The regime has maintained a 40-year grip on power through heavy use of divide-and-rule tactics, while favouring the Alawite minority for high-level military and political positions.
Protesters who took to the streets in mid-March in a quest for greater political freedoms have been openly calling for regime change and even Assad’s execution. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of mainly low-level Sunni soldiers have defected from the Alawite-led army.
IT’S not easy being considered the Machiavelli of nonviolence. But Gene Sharp relishes his role. For nearly 40 years — ever since the ashes of Hiroshima and the Holocaust left an impression on him as an undergraduate at Ohio State University — Dr. Sharp has probed alternatives to violence. Today, as director of Harvard University’s Program on Nonviolent Sanctions, the soft-spoken scholar is considered one of the world’s leading proponents of nonviolent struggle.
And like Renaissance statesman Niccolo Machiavelli, Sharp is a pragmatist. Almost obsessively so.
Syria’s uprising is now well into its seventh month, and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 3600 people have been killed by security forces and regime supporters, and of those, about 200 have been children.
”Local people have reached the crossroads,” said Mousab Azzawi, the group’s spokesman. ”So far they have been sticking to their peaceful demonstrations, but now they are tempted by the 15,000 or so defectors from the army to take up arms in the uprising.”
Such a move would bring enormous risk, he said. ”If the conflict turns into a military one, it will not be confined by the borders of Syria.”
News.Az interviews Dr Theodore Karasik, director of Research & Development at the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis.
Do you think that Muammar Gaddafi’s death means an end to war in Libya?
We will have to see what happens to the remnants of the former regime. They may well start an insurgency.
What are the major conclusions that can be drawn from the “Arab spring” revolutions?
The major conclusion is that there is a new Near East and that dictators are not invincible.
The death of Muammar Qaddafi is a cause for joy in Libya, and for concern. Some worry that the ruling National Transitional Council will force its way to permanent power; others that Islamist elements will seek to put the country under Shariah law; and there is also the danger of the nation splitting into three parts.
But there is another tremendous threat to Libya’s progress waiting quietly next door. Algeria’s military junta is terrified that a rebellious spirit may finally cross its borders. Ever since the Tunisian revolt dethroned President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Washington’s foreign- policy establishment has paid little attention to Algeria, the lodestar of “the Arab West.”
Striking employees of Maruti Suzuki , India’s biggest carmaker, have seized control of a factory hit by weeks of labour unrest, the company said on Monday, as a stand-off that has cost the firm over $150 million descended into violence.
Workers attacked managers and supervisors and damaged equipment at the Manesar plant in north India, Maruti said, shutting down production for a third consecutive day as the company battles slowing demand in Asia’s third-largest economy.
“The plant is effectively captive in the hands of striking workers who are bent upon violence,” the company said in a statement, describing the situation at the factory as “grave.”
Chilean students protesting for educational reform have called a new general strike, following the breakdown of talks with the government.
They will be joined by trade unions in a two-day stoppage on 18-19 October.
School and university students, as well as teachers, have been boycotting classes and holding demonstrations for five months to demand free education.
Saudi Arabia vowed to use “an iron fist” after 11 members of the security forces were attacked and injured during unrest in a Shiite Muslim town in the east, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The government accused an unidentified foreign country of seeking to undermine the stability of the kingdom as a result of the violence in Awwamiya, in which the assailants, some on motorcycles, used machine guns and Molotov cocktails, the Riyadh-based news service reported late yesterday. A man and two women were also injured, it said.
Six months after the Syrian uprising began it seems clear that peaceful protests aimed at overthrowing the regime and ousting President Bashar al-Assad have failed. With no prospect of meaningful national dialogue in sight, the conflict now appears to be shifting into a new, infinitely more hazardous phase: the weaponisation of the revolution. Syria is moving inexorably from Arab spring to an ever darker, dangerous winter of discontent.
The Yemeni regime’s indiscriminate machine-gunning of demonstrators in the capital, Sana’a, and the opposition’s furious reaction, suggests the country’s eight-month-old crisis may be coming to a head. But the interests of two key outside players, the US and Saudi Arabia, remain focused more on strategic security and terrorism concerns than on spreading democracy and prosperity in the Arabian peninsula.
The US stepped up pressure last week for an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, urging the regime to accept a previously formulated political transition deal within seven days. The plan, mediated by the Saudis and other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council, calls for a government of national unity, presidential elections and a new constitution.
But Saleh, holed up in Saudi Arabia after an assassination attempt in June, has so far resisted the plan’s key provision – that he step down and hand over power to his vice-president in exchange for immunity.
Unlike Libya, the opposition to Assad has failed to garner international intervention. Since March, the Syrian opposition has reported the deaths of more than 3,000 people and injury of another 20,000.
Still, at the council session in Istanbul, only the governments of Canada and Japan attended. Opposition sources said other countries had pledged to send observers.
Opposition sources said activists against Assad convened in Belgium, Britain, Egypt and Turkey to decide on the council membership. They said the majority of the representatives — 40 percent of whom come from Syria — consists of secular opposition members. Most of the names on the council were withheld to prevent reprisals by Assad.
Crises like the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador in Turkey, the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and protests outside the one in Amman, Jordan, have compounded a sense of urgency and forced the Obama administration to reassess some of this country’s fundamental assumptions, and to do so on the fly.
“The region has come unglued,” said Robert Malley, a senior analyst in Washington for the International Crisis Group. “And all the tools the United States has marshaled in the past are no longer as effective.”
The United States, as a global power and permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, still has significant ability to shape events in the region.
I may have forgotten much from my high school and college days but I do remember how a chemical chain-reaction works. The cause, effect and eventual aftermath can be reproduced not only in a science class but in our own backyards. The colour revolutions and mass Arab movements have shown that known and unknown variables can cause major shifts in any stable nation. Let’s find those root causes which bring about such turmoil. That instability sends shock waves around the world and strikes fear in the hearts of government bureaucrats and citizens alike.
This is no longer Israel. A profound, internal, existential crisis has arrived. It stems in part from the changing nature of the country, more right wing, more restrictive, far less liberal, and far less egalitarian. Many moderate Israelis fear the country is heading for ruin. Indeed, the country’s ruling class, including Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors Ehud Olmert (now on trial for corruption) and Ehud Barak (a former head of the Labor Party and current defense minister), live in opulence, and the feeling is that they are out of touch with reality. In Tel Aviv, where some 350,000 gathered in protest, a widespread chant, set to a popular children’s ditty, was “Bibi has three apartments, which is why we have none.”
Tent cities popped up as the demonstrators—20- to 45-year-olds, with a healthy contingent of older people—rallied against nonprogressive taxation, low wages, and the high cost of housing and consumer goods, which have made it nigh impossible for families to make ends meet. A full 20 percent of Israelis (and 15 percent of Israeli Jews) live under the poverty line, and the top decile of Israel’s population earns 31 percent of the country’s total net income. The lowest decile earns a mere 1.6 percent. Last year Israel was elected to membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of the world’s 32 most-developed countries. Among them, Israel ranks as one of the worst (alongside Mexico and the United States) in terms of wealth polarization.
he death toll in Syria from the crackdown on anti-regime protests has topped 3,000, most of them civilians, the head of a US-based rights group said in Tunis Saturday.
The United Nations said on August 22 that more than 2,200 people had been killed in attempts by the army and other security forces to suppress almost daily protests across Syria since mid-March.
“More than 3,000 people have been killed, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in 112 Syrian towns and cities,” Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Washington-based Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria, said.
They included 123 aged under 18, he added.
The situation in Sana’a is tense as forces from both sides deploy to the capital and take up positions. Meanwhile, southern Yemen remains under the control of al Qaeda-linked militants, despite renewed operations against the militants by the Yemeni military.
A suicide car bomb killed at least three policemen in Aden on Saturday. As many as six troops were killed and eight others injured. The bomber was leaving Aden and attacked a checkpoint along the road between Aden and Abyan. Gunmen stormed the checkpoint after the bomb detonated.
Yemeni airstrikes in Jaar killed seven civilians. The fighter jets hit the Grand Mosque in Jaar instead of a small mosque held by Ansar al Sharia militants, who have links to al Qaeda. Airstrikes also targeted the local hospital, under militant control. Yemen’s defense ministry reports that airstrikes on Sunday killed 17 militants. Fighting in Zinjibar killed three soldiers and 12 militants Saturday.
There has been a steady trickle of military defections of mainly low-ranking soldiers, but the armed forces and security forces have so far remained loyal — unlike in Egypt and Tunisia where the military helped usher presidents from power.
Many army commanders belong to Assad’s family and his minority Alawite community, which holds sway in the majority Sunni Muslim country. Military power remains central to Assad’s efforts to maintain control of the country of 20 million.
What to watch:
- More army defections, attacks on security forces
- Signs of division in top leadership
Civil war in Syria would serve Iran well. Backing the Alawites would allow it to undermine Israel and Saudi Arabia at the same time.
Revolutions are unpredictable, but so are post-revolution periods – something that will be evident if and when the Bashar al-Assad regime falls in Syria.
It is, of course, possible that when the regime falls, the fighting will end and a single body will manage the country’s affairs until elections take place. But it’s also possible that there will be chaos or even civil war. If this happens, expect fighting between the minority ruling Alawites and the majority Sunni population to ensue.
Should there be a smooth transition to democracy, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is likely to try to establish relations with the new Syrian government – indeed he may even try to do so before Assad falls, in order to protect Iran’s interests in Syria. And Khamenei may succeed, depending on whether the new authorities in Damascus are interested in relations with Tehran.
Oil companies in Europe are betting on the survival of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, in contrast to their support for Libya’s opposition six months ago, even as the European Union is expected to slap oil sanctions on Damascus.
Several tankers are sailing to Syria this week to either deliver fuel or pick up crude.
The same companies, including Swiss-based trader Vitol, made the opposite bet when it came to trade in Libya. They agreed to supply opponents of Muammar Gaddafi with fuel in the hope their support would be rewarded at the end of the war.
“What oil firms are currently doing does really look like they believe Assad will win, and they will have to deal with him again,” said a Western diplomatic source.
The fighting in Libya is taking a new twist as rebels engage in despicable atrocities with reports of summary executions as they hunt for ‘mercenaries’ who they alleged aided and supported Gaddafi’s forces. The ‘mercenaries’, mostly from sub-saharan Africa, were said to be violently massacred in revenge for their role in the ongoing conflict. It seems the TRC has been unable to prevent such acts of heinous crimes despite appeals from the UN and the international community to the rebels not to carry out revenge killings. At this point, the TRC seems more anxious to take power in Libya than ensuring that civilians are protected as they wage war on Gaddafi’s forces. It must be said that before these reports of summary executions came to light, the TRC had been instrumental in coordinating a well organised offensive by the rebels, but things seems to have got out of control when the excitement of securing Tripoli and driving out soldiers loyal to the regime turned to celebrations that may have invoked vengeance.
U.S. and Israeli officials say there is fear a government breakup in Syria could lead to rogue groups armed with a variety of chemical weapons.
“We are very concerned about the status of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren recently told The Wall Street Journal.
“Together with the U.S. administration, we are watching this situation very carefully,” he said.
With civil unrest turning into a prolonged conflict for regime change in Libya — an event following former President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in Egypt — there is concern that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could also be toppled with a populist revolt.
Protesters scuffled with police in the Chilean capital on Thursday, the second of a two-day strike against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera marked by sporadic looting, though the linchpin mining sector was not affected.
Youths set fire to piles of trash at some intersections in Santiago and other cities to block traffic, and police used water cannon and tear gas to defuse the latest rash of social unrest against conservative billionaire Pinera’s policies.
The government said hundreds of people had been detained since Wednesday and several police officers were badly injured — two of them shot — as violence flared overnight, when dozens of shops, supermarkets and gas station kiosks were looted and buses damaged.
The DNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity office is soliciting research proposals for sophisticated software and other tools that can sort through “noisy data” to pull out meaningful patterns, according to an >agency solicitation posted Wednesday.
The agency is interested in developing “methods that leverage population behavior change in anticipation of, and in response to, events of interest [and] processing of publicly available data that reflect those population behavior changes,” the solicitation said.
The U.S. intelligence community has used publicly available or “open source” data since its inception as a supplement to satellite and signals intelligence and on-the-ground spying. It’s less common, though, for the intelligence community to look at spikes and valleys in data rather than the data itself, essentially focusing on “volume rather than depth” as Wednesday’s solicitation says.
The London riots were bad, but not in comparison to what has been happening in Karachi. Today Karachi, Pakistan’s financial and trade center, home to 18 million people, was silenced by a day of mourning called by the city’s main political party, the Urdu speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The day of mourning was in protest for the killing of over 100 people during this week and at least 500 people in the first half of the year by gangs linked to the main political parties, the MQM and the Pashtun Awami National Party.
Karachi, formerly the capital of Pakistan until the move to Islamabad, attained its population and sprawl as a result of successive waves of refugees who came following the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947, the secession of Bangladesh in 1971 and the Russian invasion of Pakistan.
Under the 1979 treaty, Egypt demilitarized Sinai. But the military-led interim regime in Cairo, like most Egyptians, objects to the treaty.
If it deploys large numbers of troops into Sinai, sovereign Egyptian territory, without Israel’s approval, there will be trouble and that could seriously damage what little is left of the Mideast peace process.
But, analyst Ehud Yaari of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, “Pre-emptive Israeli operations across the border would certainly trigger a major crisis.”
After the treaty, Israel substantially downsized its military forces because it no longer needed to protect its 170-mile Sinai border with Egypt.
Sri Lanka yesterday deployed soldiers to quell unrest sparked by a fear of nighttime prowlers known as “Grease Devils,” after at least five died over the past two weeks in a wave of vigilantism and clashes with police across the island nation.
Sri Lanka’s army also set up a new brigade in Kinniya near the eastern port of Trincomalee, where thousands of angry people last week besieged a government office after fighting with the navy in pursuit of suspected “grease devil”.
The increased deployment came a day after a mob killed a police officer in the northwestern town of Puttalam. Troops have remained out in force since Sri Lanka’s government won a 25-year civil war in May 2009 with the Tamil Tiger ethnic separatists.
With the imminent departure of Muammar Gaddafi from absolute power as the rebels are closing on Tripoli two CIA-backed Libyan groups and an al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a declared foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the US State Department since 2004, could emerge as real power in Libya when it is clear that the rebel military forces are a patchwork of armed groups, former soldiers and freelance militias including self-appointed neighborhood gangs.
The main rebel group, based in Benghazi in the country’s east, consists of former government ministers who have defected, and longstanding opposition figures, representing a range of political views including Arab nationalists, Islamists, secularists, socialists and businessmen.
The Spanish Interior Ministry opened an investigation into the violent repression by the national police of two lay demonstrations against public funding for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.
The Madrid-based newspaper Publico confirmed on Saturday that the Interior Ministry ordered the opening of an investigation specifically into a video that shows several policemen beating a photographer.