The revolts around the Middle East are still heating up. The coalitions air strikes are dealing havoc to Gaddifi’s heavy weapons, giving the rebels a fighting chance. In Bahrain, the Shi’ites are brooding as the country remains under de facto Saudi occupation, Saleh looks gone in Yemen, while violence is escalating in Syria and Jordan.
Rebels have largely re-taken Adjabiya after coalition bombing destroyed tanks controlling key junctions. However, the cities of Zintan and Misurata remain under siege with many civilian deaths reported from artillery and sniper fire.
The Saudis are still in Bahrain in force. This has effectively ended large public demonstrations and leaders of the reform movement have been disappeared but this can only surely be delaying the inevitable and making it even more certain that when they leave Al Khalifa will fall. Small Shi’ite protests continue in Saudi Arabia.
The crucial moment for Yemen may have come with two senior generals and their troops switching sides. Just as Ukrainian special forces pledged to protect the protesters during the Orange Revolution, which at the last moment dissuaded Interior Ministry forces from attacking them and ensured the success of the revolution. The defecting soldiers are standing guard over the Yemeni protesters and fired warning shots when loyalist security forces arrived. One of the defecting generals has apparently met with President Saleh to discuss terms for him to step down. However, the political map in Yemen is fractured and the South secessionists are mobilising.
Protests are spreading across Sryia. Having really kicked off about a week ago in Deraa they were joined by protests in several cities, including Damascus on Friday, the Islamic holy day. The protests have been brutally repressed, with dozens killed in Deraa alone. President Assad is no stranger to repressing his people – his father put down a Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the 1980s, killing at least 10,000. And there’s no hope of the West coming to the Syrian people’s aid if they revolt as they have in Libya. Syria has a much more powerful military and the West will not want to over-extend itself. The UK used up 20% of its cruise missiles (which, admittedly, was only 12) in taking out Libya’s air defences.
In neighbouring Jordan, protests turned violent for the first time with reformers and government supporters clashing in Amman before security forces intervened. At least one person was killed. King Abdullah II is one of the most moderate leaders in the region. Expect further compromises from him – he won’t risk losing his head to keep his crown.
There’s no sign of the security forces in Syria or Jordan fracturing, yet. But, interestingly, protests in Syria have included the Alawi population, a minority Shi’ite sect which the ruling family belongs to and from which most senior officials are drawn.
Iran’s quiet but it may not remain so.