Arab Spring Turns Deadly Again

Thousands of Syrians demonstrated all over the country on Friday, especially in smaller cities and rural towns. Some 7000 came out in downtown Homs. Troops fired on crowds and responded with brutality against protesters. Aljazeera English reports:

As the Syrian military headed into the town of Jisr , where 120 members of the security forces died in internecine fighting a few days ago, many Syrians fled across the border to Turkey:

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a friend of Bashar al-Asad, seemed to begin breaking with him in comments on Friday in which he complained of the latter’s propensity for dealing with protests violently and disproportionately. Turkey is afraid of the Syrian unrest spilling on to it.

In Yemen, an enormous crowd of 100,000 marched in the capital of Sanaa to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh not return to the country. The remnants of his regime arranged for a much smaller counter-demonstration elsewhere in the capital, which went off peacefully. McClatchy reports that the Saleh clan has moved behind the scenes to strengthen its control of key security units, and that Saleh’s son, Ahmad Ali, has moved into the presidential palace.

In Libya, the people of Zlitan near Misrata rose up against Qaddafi’s forces, and heavy fighting ensued in the city. It is a key to opening Tripoli to an advance from the West, and so if it fell to the Free Libya forces, it would hasten the end of the war. Also on Friday, Qaddafi brigades continued their attacks on the city of Misrata, killing over twenty persons with indiscriminate fire. Qaddafi brigades also bombarded Gadamis, in the southwest near Tunisia. The Free Libya forces are puzzled as to why NATO does not attack the forces besieging Misrata, and I share their puzzlement. NATO has been intensively bombarding Tripoli, which may or may not actually be useful (no one seems to be explaining the rationale for these tactics), but Qaddafi forces appear to be able to roll around through the desert at will. My guess is that French and British air forces lack the precision capabilities of the American, and that there is still poor coordination between the Free Libya forces and their air protectors, which could lead to unfortunate friendly fire incidents, and NATO is being cautious. As for Tripoli, given that Qaddafi continues to order attacks on civilian cities who are protesting him, I think it is within the UNSC mandate to attack his command and control centers (how else would you protect the populations being assaulted?) But i know of no instance where ‘shock and awe’ worked to produce a military victory, and suspect that NATO is over-doing this tactic.

Posted in Libya,Syria,Yemen | 5 Responses | Print |

5 Responses

  1. And as the Syrians continue to commit more human rights outragess, where is the Arab League? One would have assumed that Amr Moussa would be in front of this crisis, calling far more strongly for Assad’s regime to cease firing on its own people.

    But Moussa’s relative silence marks him as yet another “retro” political hack. We shouldn’t be surprised. He continues to cling to a stale playbook that failed for regional strongmen in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s – and won’t work very well now.

    ‘m not at all sanguine about what Egypt might look like if he succeeds in the coming elections. At 74, his time has passed. There’s little that Moussa would bring to the job with his back-to-the-future approach, both to domestic and foreign relations.

  2. NATO’s actions and inactions the past week have truly been baffling.

    In general, I think NATO is overwhelmed. It’s pretty easy to see, the aircraft disappear for a full day or even two after major bombing runs. They simply don’t have the pilots and targeting experts to keep pace with events.

    Bombing buildings in Tripoli is easy. Dealing with a dynamic battlefield stresses resources.

    The other issue is that NATO is clearly risk averse. How can you fight a war when the downing of a single helicopter is treated as a defeat? They only use helicopters at night, and then only sporadically. The helicopters are propoganda only, and Gadaffy has called NATO’s bluff.

    Well, hopefully NATO will be shamed into dealing with the real action. So far, it appears NATO only cares about preventing deaths where they can be directly blamed.

    • I’m glad NATO is being risk-averse when it comes to civilian and rebel casualties.

      Every civilian death from NATO strikes would do more damage to the rebel movement than 10 successful strikes against Gadaffi’s forces.

      Let’s not forget how we got here: political protests sprung up against the government and swept through the country, and the dictator tried to beat them back. If the anti-Gadaffi actions lose legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people, then the war will drag on longer, and the Free Libya Government will have a much harder time of governing and unifying the country when the dust clears.

      Erring on the side of caution is the right idea for NATO.

  3. Comment box not popping up on your Weiner piece.

    Lets not forget that Rep Weiner has been pushing for the release of Jonathon Pollard
    link to jonathanpollard.org
    April 22, 2011

    President Barack Obama The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President,

    As Pesach, the holiday of freedom, comes to a close, I urge you to use your constitutional power to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard and allow him to join his family in Israel. This exercise in justice is not meant to imply doubt about his guilt or cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted. On the contrary, Mr. Pollard knows that he has committed serious crimes and after 26 years, stands as the strongest deterrent to espionage in this country. However, his charges do not merit the punishment.

    It is indisputable that the disproportionate amount of time that Mr. Pollard spent in prison is a thorn in the side of the alliance between Israel and the United States. Mr. Pollard cooperated with investigators, admitted his wrongdoing, and was sentenced to life in prison. No one who has ever pleaded guilty to a similar crime has ever been sentenced to a life term.

    Commuting Mr. Pollard’s sentence will be viewed as an act of compassion on behalf of the United States and between two allies. Mr. President, please do what former President Bush has repeatedly refused and heed the countless calls for Pollard’s freedom during this Passover season.

    I thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

    Sincerely,

    ANTHONY D. WEINER
    Member of Congress

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