The Arab Spring has become an increasingly bloody Arab Summer as dictators unleash their security forces to try to stop the wave of protests and revolutions sweeping the Arab world. Yemen’s dictator, wounded in the fighting, left for treatment in Saudi Arabia and seems unlikely to return.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh received what have been described as minor wounds when his palace was mortared. It’s odd, if his wounds were indeed minor, that he then went to Saudi Arabia for treatment. Either the wounds are more serious than suggested or this is abdication by default. Certainly, it’s very hard to see how he will be able to return and take control. The Yemeni people are celebrating his downfall in the streets. Whether he wants it or not, facts on the ground mean Saleh’s rule is finished.
The challenge now is what comes next. As we’ve seen in Egypt, there’s no democratically-minded political class waiting to step into the gap. In Egypt the military has remained in power. In Yemen, the ruling party is still in power and, although it is expected to form a unity government with opposition groups soon, the opposition groups have no democratic culture either.
Meanwhile, in Libya, Gaddafi’s regime seems to be on its last legs. Senior officers and officials are deserting as the economy collapses along with the military power of the regime. The rebels remain stalled halfway across the country but this was never about the rebels rolling from East to West and into Tripoli. It was always going to be up to the people of Tripoli themselves to rise up as other cities have. There are reports of protests restarting in Tripoli after a lull of several months following the regime’s initial violent crackdown.
The Syrian situation looks dire for the revolutionaries. The security forces appear united behind the regime and have showed no hesitation in gunning down unarmed protesters. Unless the revolutionaries get the ability to fight the security forces on even terms, ideally by part of the security forces switching sides, the regime does not seem to be under serious threat.
Lower level protests are rolling on in a number of other Arab countries. The more dictators that fall, the better. But it’s clear that getting there, and the transition to a new government afterwards, is no simple process.