Sunday, 24 April 2011

As the Yemenese Domino Falls, is Syria next?

First we had Tunisia. Then we had Egypt. Libya seemed destined to be next but is holding back against the tide. Bahrain is also fighting back whilst Yemen seems to be about to fall. Syria meanwhile is becoming more vulnerable by the day.

The revolutionary fervour that has swept through the Middle East and through the Arabic states there shows no signs of abating. But the responses of the main combatants to the internal dissent in their countries is not uniform.

To date, there have been revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; a pending transfer of power in Yemen; a civil war in Libya; major protests in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Oman; and minor protests in Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara.

Yemen Falls
The latest news is that Yemen's President Saleh has agreed yesterday to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan to step down by 23 May in exchange for immunity. If he does indeed leave power within the next 30 days then he will become the 3rd leader to leave office amidst a popular uprising since the turn of the year.

But what of Syria? Whilst Saleh attempted to hold on against the grain, he ended up finding his position untenable as those on his own side deserted his call. In Libya, Gaddafi is clawing onto power with all of his might and with his not unsubstantial support, is not going to leave gracefully as the NATO powers have realised.

But what of Syria then? President Assad has shown short shrift for his opponents and has used force to break-up the protests in his own country. But the protests have continued. The Syrian Cabinet resigned as a concession to the protestors and now in recent days, he has ended the decades old state of emergency law which has been in place for 48 years. Yet this decision last Thursday did not calm the protests. Indeed they have intensified. The rebels can smell change. Unfortunately, they can also smell blood. In the two days since, some 120 Syrians it is believed has been killed as the protests move into a new phase of intensity.

Britain's Foreign Sercretary William Hague now 'strongly advises' Britons to leave Syria because of the 'rapid deterioration' in law and order there.

It is clear that we are reaching a serious cross-roads in developments here. Will Assad continue to lead a crack down on his own people? Will he make more concessions to try and calm them down? He may see Bahrain as an example of how he can fight his way back to security but then the example of Yemen shows that this may not work. He's been using the carrot and he's been using the stick, but neither has yet appeared to work.

It all depends now on his own supporters. If Assad can keep his army and his Government on side, it will not be easy to force his removal. But if the protests grow in number, the pressure on those at the top to change sides will intensify. That will be the tipping-point as it has been in the other Arabic countries over these past few months.

But whilst the west are willing to intervene in Libya, in Syria as with Yemen and Bahrain, it sits back as the region burns.

1 comment:

  1. More likely is that the Syrian people will realise that a Government that kills its own people attending the funerals of those killed protesting, has no moral right or justification to remain in office.

    That might be what tilts the power away from Assad. No Government has the right to kill its own people in such a brutal fashion.