http://www.blogger.com/logout.g Lex Petros: Middle East Unrest Continues...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Middle East Unrest Continues...


The developments of the last two weeks have been prolific.

Yemen student protests turned anti-government. Clashes between pro-government and pro-democracy demonstrators. Thousands took to the streets (mostly youths) chanting "time for change" and referring to the popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Demonstrators want President Saleh who ruled North in 1978, North and South when they merged in 1990 and was relected in 2006. With a population of about 2 million, many whom a illiterate, which economy depends of some oil and with a 35% unemployment rate, it's not wonder the ones protesting have a bone to pick. Yemeni protests are taking a turn for the worse.

Yesterday, a grenade was hurled into the crowd. Rival forces taken on anti-government protesters near Sanaa Univerisity. Pro-democracy demonstrators demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In Libya- President Muammar Gadaffi's rule of 41 years is challenged as protesters organized their rallies, one of them infamously known as "The Day of Rage" last week. Up to yesterday, at least 20 people are reported killed. News correspondents say that the police are using lethal force against the crowd. News agencies cannot say more as the government has prohibited any reporting within. Demonstrations erupted on Tuesday after a human rights lawyer was detained by the police.

On the Persian Gulf - Bahrain saw strong confrontations since Monday, with anti-government protesters pushing their way on Pearl Roundabout. Many of the protesters are Shite Muslims making up 70% of the residents and have been long under the rule of a Sunni royal family.

Deep political and economical grievances have harboured over 40 years and cries for reforms and change are pouring from the opponents. Authorities have reportedly stepped in with force and now, the tone is to bring down the regime and dissolve parliament. al-Wifaq, a major Shite opposition party says there can be no dialogue with the government whilst the military controls the streets.

Minor injuries are reported in Baghdad and Amman, Jordan. King Abdullah had about a week plus ago fired his entire cabinet. The Jordanians are demanding reform and the abolishing the peace treaty with Israel (Wadi Araba Treaty) in 1994, among other articles- Jordan has preference concerning the status of Muslim holy places in the city (as a guardian or keeper of the holy places) in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Iran is not seeing any respite, with a civil war looming ahead. There is separation of politics and religious leaders.

The opposition's intentions are unknown: whether they want a regime change or more freedom from the regime? These are answers Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karubbi can provide, the two leaders of Iran's opposition movement. Just like ElBaradei in Egypt, a protagonist is behind the upstage.

One thing is for sure - many Iranians will not support a religious figure for a leader given their experience for the past 30 years. The Tunisia and Egypt experience has no doubt catapulted the protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection. The fiasco which started in 2009 has now erupted into a full-blown battle.

Iranian warships have been given the green light to cross the Suez Canal, leading to more uncertainty in the region and Israel is sweating more profusely. The canal is an internal body of water, and as such, Egypt has sovereignty over it. But Egypt also is bound by the 1978 Camp David Accords, which guarantee the right of free passage by ships belonging to Israel and all other nations on the basis of the Constantinople Convention of 1888.

Before that, Egypt did not allow Israeli ships to sail through the canal. Some have called this a typical "Syrian-Iranian opportunism". Israeli's Foreign Ministry has spoken to its allies to pay close attention and to act speedily against "any Iranian provocations".

Back in Egypt- the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces have so far declared they will honor the peace treaties signed with Israel. When Egypt’s opposition leaders began talking of “revolution,” they wanted not only to end the Mubarak presidency but also to sweep aside the 1971 constitution (as amended as so recent as 2007) which made it impossible for the Muslim Brotherhood to form a political party and undermined judicial supervision in the hands of commissions.

The result was a bias regime: promising a little bit to everyone but more to the president. For the time being, the best case is the interim government honoring its transitional role and providing a framework for fair elections and reforms as committed within the next 2 months.

The USA whilst condemning violence and urging stakeholders to resolve the feuds are no less lead by them intention to retain air and naval superiority over the Persian Gulf. The US's 5th Naval Fleet's base is housed in Bahrain.

If the base is unwelcome by a new government, US will be loosing a very strategic location, from where they launched their attacks into Taliban territory and keeping their policing over Iran. A possible move to Saudi Arabia is any one's guess.

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