A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unrest Continues in the Region

As the Middle East continues to witness new waves of protests. Last week, Tunisians took to the streets to voice out dissatisfaction with the pace of change two months after the ouster of Ben 'Ali. Yemenis continue to display the same steadfast resolve against the thuggish regime of Saleh, who has unleashed the full might of his security forces killing scores of peaceful protesters. However, today he agreed to enter into talks with the opposition in Saudi Arabia. This might be a bit too late given Saleh's early intransigence that proved deadly for his own people.

Syria finally erupted as well with massive protests in the agricultural towns of Dar'a, Sanamin and the port city of Latakia. Sporadic protests also took place in Damascus. There in Syria as in Yemen, the regime responded with tremendous show of violence killing dozens of protesters. The events spurred the regime's attempt to address the protesters' demands fell as flat as the speech delivered by an aloof smug Bashar al-Asad. Blaming everyone but his repressive regime, Bashar talked about a foreign conspiracy behind the riots and lashed out on foreign media for what he viewed as systematic and deliberate lies against his regime.

Al-Assad's speech drew the ire of many Syrian activists. However, some argue that the speech accomplished its goal of rallying people around the security of the state of al-Assad especially after thousands of Syrian came out in support of the regime after the speech. This line of argumentation suggests Syrians are presented with two choices: security or mutli-ethnic civil strife, with the Syrians evidently opting for the former. This sounds myopic and reductionist since such argument is solely based on state-orchestrated demonstrations.

After a couple of weeks of sustained air strikes and a barrage of US Tomahawk missiles, Libya still oscillate between the ebb of pro-Gaddafi forces retreat and flow of rebel frustrated push towards the west in a hopeful attempt to topple Gaddafi. Both sides have shown fissures as the rebels continue to be mired in complete disorganization, while Gaddafi's inner circle lost some key officials to defection. Last week the all powerful former intelligence chief and foreign minister Moussa Koussa flew to London, where he resigned all of his formal posts in the Libyan state. Even Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam came out with an outlandish plan to devolve power away from his megalomaniacal father, promising democratic reforms, but with only one caveat: all of that will be performed under Saif al-Islam. The conflict in Libya is destined to a stalemate unless there are more notable breaks within the inner circle of Gaddafi, who is increasingly isolated.

The deciding factor could well be provided by the international community, whose military, logistical and financial support is key in toppling the regime of Gaddafi in Tripoli. However such support raises great concern in the US, where shades of the past in Afghanistan haunts US foreign policy makers. Many raise the issue of Jihadi Libyans among the rebels that could benefit from US weaponry and later on use it against US interests. Others in the US want a strict adherence to the wide-ranging mandate in the UNSC resolution 1973 authorizing the safeguard of Libyan civilians, short of a military intervention on the ground. Lost in this debate is a clear goal for the international intervention. Granted it has saved thousands of lives, but anything other than effective military aid for the rebels will fall short of toppling Gaddafi thus turning the conflict in Libya into a stalemate.


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