The Changing Face of the MENA Region (Breaking News)

The WSJ reports that Yemeni President Saleh is working out a deal that will let him resign. The country’s leading general will also resign. The details will be released on Saturday.

“Both sides have agreed on the main points of departure, and Saturday is expected to be the day that Saleh and General Ahmar both step down,” according to a senior official familiar with the negotiations.

It couldn’t be determined which individuals were being considered as candidates for any transitional authority as talks continued late Thursday between the two leaders.

The support for mainstream opposition party leaders is unclear across the rugged and largely conservative country. Meanwhile, traditional tribal leaders who have great social standing would face problems exerting authority over rival tribes.

The Pentagon is currently holding a presser and has announced that they’re no longer ‘detecting’ Libyan planes in the air. NATO and the UN are expected to make an announcement shortly that NATO will be taking over the No-fly efforts. I just read some interesting analysis at Juan Cole’s Informed Consent on the Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN’s no-fly zone efforts. Cole says the French have also verified that Gadhafi’s air attacks have stopped and that his planes are grounded.  There is also this tidbit.

The participation of the Muslim world in the United Nations no-fly zone over Libya has been underlined. The measure was called for by the Arab League, which has not in fact changed its mind about its desirability. Qatar is expected to be flying missions over Libya by this weekend. Other Arab League countries will give logistical support.

It is significant that the Arab League is supporting this action.  The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)–an organization that is an essential part of my research on trade–is also trying to curb problems in Bahrain. This is significant because it shows that region is actively trying to create situations to jointly improve the conditions in the region.

Meanwhile, the people of Syria may be closer to the goals of their mostly peaceful protests. Syria is one of the most repressed countries in the region and has been under martial law for 50 years.  Clashes between protesters and the government have increased recently.

President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public pledge to look into granting Syrians greater freedom on Thursday as anger mounted following attacks by security forces on protesters that left at least 37 dead.

Syrian opposition figures said the promises did not meet the aspirations of the people and were similar to those repeated at regular Baath Party conferences, where committees would be formed to study reforms that do not see the light of day.

“The leadership is trying to absorb the rage of the streets. We want to see reform on the ground,” said a protester in the southern city of Deraa.

A hospital official said at least 37 people had been killed in the southern city of Deraa on Wednesday when security forces opened fire on demonstrators inspired by uprisings across the Arab world that have shaken authoritarian leaders.

While an aide said Assad would study a possible end to 48 years of emergency rule, a human rights group said a leading pro-democracy activist, Mazen Darwish, had been arrested.

It’s exciting to watch the move to democracy and modernity in a region known for strongmen dictators, kings, and harsh political oppression.  This will be an interesting situation to watch. I only hope that the people get what they are hoping for and that modernity and better treatment of women are part of the equation.  Some of the states–like Qatar and the UAE–are further along in this pursuit than others.  Yemen and Syria are perhaps the most dangerous parts of the equation.  The Shia-Sunni dynamic is present and that always makes for a delicate situation.

Also, SOS Hillary Clinton will be making a statement shortly.  We will try to keep you updated and give you interesting links as these new developments unfold.


Will 2011 “Rock the World” Like 1968 Did?

Paris, May 1968

For the past few weeks, as the protests in Tunisia spread to Egypt and then to several other countries, I’ve been reminded of the worldwide political uprisings that took place back in 1968, “the year that rocked the world.” Now that we are even seeing Americans protesting in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio, I wonder: could it happen again?

In case you weren’t around in 1968 or your memory is fuzzy, the Guardian published a summary of some of the events of that unbelievable year back in 2008. Sean O’Hagen describes how in May 1968, Paris

…was paralysed after weeks of student riots followed by a sudden general strike. France’s journey from ‘serenity’ to near revolution in the first few weeks of May is the defining event of ’1968′, a year in which mass protest erupted across the globe, from Paris to Prague, Mexico City to Madrid, Chicago to London.

[....]

These rebellions were not planned in advance, nor did the rebels share an ideology or goal. The one cause many had in common was opposition to America’s war in Vietnam but they were driven above all by a youthful desire to rebel against all that was outmoded, rigid and authoritarian. At times, they gained a momentum that took even the protagonists by surprise. Such was the case in Paris, which is still regarded as the most mythic near-revolutionary moment of that tumultuous year, but also in Mexico City, Berlin and Rome.

In these cases, what began as a relatively small and contained protest against a university administration – a protest by the young and impatient against the old and unbending – burgeoned into a mass movement against the government. In other countries – like Spain, where the Fascist General Franco was still in power, and Brazil, where a military dictatorship was in place – the protests were directed from the start against the state. In Warsaw and Prague, the freedom movements rose up briefly against the monolithic communist ideology of the USSR. And in America, capitalism was the ultimate enemy, and Vietnam the prime catalyst.

Those protests, along with revolutions in music, art, fashion, and mores truly changed the world. Could it be happening again? Have we really reached a tipping point?

I thought I’d just put up some links to the important events that have taken place today in the many ongoing protests. You can add your own links in the comments (if anyone else is still awake).

More below the fold….

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday Night Specials

The Martini dakini

There’s a lot going on to think about during this weekend that’s generally reserved to celebrate the sale of mattresses, bad candy, and greenhouse flowers.

First, Is Algeria the next democracy domino in the MENA region? Also, why can’t I get any newspaper or TV news channel in this country to tell me about it?  Let’s start helping these folks out too!!

Internet providers were shut down and Facebook accounts deleted across Algeria on Saturday as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in violent street demonstrations.

Plastic bullets and tear gas were used to try and disperse large crowds in major cities and towns, with 30,000 riot police taking to the streets in Algiers alone.

There were also reports of journalists being targeted by state-sponsored thugs to stop reports of the disturbances being broadcast to the outside world.

But it was the government attack on the internet which was of particular significance to those calling for an end to President Abdelaziz Boutifleka’s repressive regime.

Protesters mobilising through the internet were largely credited with bringing about revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

“The government doesn’t want us forming crowds through the internet,” said Rachid Salem, of Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria.

It’s interesting that so many countries are aiming for what we’re losing every day. Meanwhile, the US Presidential assertion of the day is: FBI can get phone records without oversight.

The Obama administration’s Justice Department has asserted that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process or court oversight, according to a document obtained by McClatchy.That assertion was revealed — perhaps inadvertently — by the department in its response to a McClatchy request for a copy of a secret Justice Department memo.

Critics say the legal position is flawed and creates a potential loophole that could lead to a repeat of FBI abuses that were supposed to have been stopped in 2006.

The controversy over the telephone records is a legacy of the Bush administration’s war on terror. Critics say the Obama administration appears to be continuing many of the most controversial tactics of that strategy, including the assertion of sweeping executive powers.

So, this is an open thread, but I thought I’d share something with you. This is the famous Emma Lazarus poem that is etched into the pedestal of the statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Do you think it still applies?