A Week in the Middle East

Jul 1, 2011 5:00am

As we watch the week in the region, some of our notes on… SYRIA The death toll in Syria climbed above 1,500, as swell of refugees hit Turkey, and the crucial second city of Aleppo reportedly sees mass protests. The Syrian army is ‘cracking,’ according to one report of a shoot out between defecting soldiers and secret police. The situation is a challenge for the US and Europe, who fear more regional instability and can do little beyond tighter sanctions. In ‘unauthorized diplomacy,’ US Congressman Dennis Kucinich met with Bashar Al Assad  in Damascus and vowed to end the violence. IRAN
Controversy and commentary continues around Ahmedinejad vs. The Ayatollah, the political in-fighting in Iran and continued calls for Ahmadinejad to be impeached. Analysts argue that Iran’s elites face a generational rift, while young activists – especially Iranian women – face a new round of arrests and harassment.   A Saudi Prince warns that if Iran builds nukes, so will we. LIBYA
With fighting in Libya just past the 100 day mark, it hasn’t frayed international resolve. President Obama defended US action, the French and British shipped weapons and body armor to the rebels, even Russia and China signaled they’re cutting Qaddafi loose. For months we’ve been in the ‘final days’ of the regime; opposition leaders tell us an exit plan is in the works, Qaddafi is running out of money, and rebel cells waiting for the final call. The Economist cites the mood in Tripoli- signs of liberation, but Qaddafi’s government still dug in – with all eyes on the capital, the place where the end game gets decided.   BAHRAIN As King Hamad orders a probe into Bahrain’s unrest and the government struggles to restore normalcy, analysts point to an ever-deepening sectarian divide.  Pro-democracy protests, led by the island’s Shiite majority, have been pounded down – what one Carnegie analyst called an iron fistalongside the hand of dialogue. Saudi troops mostly withdrew from Bahrain, but Arab Gulf leaders continue to see a sinister Iran behind the Shiite protests – a play for Persian influence they’re committed to stamping out. EGYPT A week of violent turmoil in the fragile ‘new Egypt’ grew from a public lashing out against military rulers – anger at the slow pace of reform. One of their chief demand is justice for Mubarak era officials (former first lady Suzanne Mubarak was just hit with a corruption probe).  The US and the Muslim Brotherhood are in formal contact, as Washington reshapes policy with an aim of maintaining its longtime ally in Cairo. Watch out in the coming week for… Fallout from UN indictments in Lebanon – politics and stability potentially sideswiped as Hezbollah members are named in the 2005 bombing that killed Rafik Hariri. The standoff between Israel and organizers of a delayed Gaza Aid flotilla   Growing gains for Al Qaeda in unstable Yemen – one analyst said they’re already a nightmare come true.  

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