Yemenis queued early Tuesday morning as polls opened for Yemen’s presidential election. With only one candidate in the race, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the election has been described as more similar to a referendum: Citizens are merely voting to confirm the transfer of power to Hadi according to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) power-transition deal outlining the end of the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The plan called for Hadi to take the position for an interim two-year period, at which time there would be presidential and parliamentary elections. After casting his vote, Hadi said, "Elections are the only exit route from the crisis which has buffeted Yemen for the past year." According to Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, the election is not about voting for a single candidate, "but to pave the way for Yemen to go forward. This is basically about restarting the nation from scratch." Despite extensive security measures, there were several instances of violence concentrated mostly in the southern port city of Aden. In one attack, a 10-year-old child was among four people killed when southern separatists and police clashed near the election commission’s Aden headquarters. The southern movement called for a boycott of the election and a day of "civil disobedience." Regardless, a turnout of up to 80 percent is expected in what many Yemenis say is a critical first step to reform, despite the challenges ahead.
- Syrian forces continue shelling several districts of Homs and fired upon protesters in Damascus. Meanwhile, Russia said it will not attend the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunisia.
- Israeli Defense Forces diffused an explosive device found on Israel’s border with Egypt.
- Iran said it will participate in talks but maintained its "peaceful" nuclear program is non-negotiable, and is increasing measures "to protect nuclear sites."
- Israel has agreed to release a Palestinian prisoner held without charge who has been on a hunger strike for over nine months.
- Saudi Arabia announced its ambassador to Jordan will also serve as ambassador to Iraq, acting as the first envoy to the country since 1990.
Arguments & Analysis
Syria — Economist Debates (Husain & Hamid et al., The Economist)
In an ongoing Economist debate, Ed Husain and Shadi Hamid square off on the debate motion: "This house believes that military intervention in Syria would do more harm than good."
Ed Husain (for the motion):
Cooler heads must prevail in Western governments. Diplomatic options have not yet been fully exhausted. After the Iraq debacle, we cannot choose military options over diplomacy so readily. In the great game to bring down Iran, and to strengthen Israel, do not go through Syria. Syria will prove to be yet another deadly, expensive detour for the West. Think Iraq, but compounded by sectarianism and regional contagion.
Opponents of the military option will often point to the regional fallout that would result from military intervention. They do not always, however, point to the regional escalation that is already occurring without military intervention. Iran and Russia are actively supporting one side in a civil war, supplying the Syrian military with arms, equipment and technical expertise. Indeed, many of the supposed risks of intervention have already come to pass and will continue to grow worse in the absence of more determined action on the part of the international community.
‘Israeli leader wrongly blames UN and Arab States for Palestinian refugees’ (Leila Hilal, The Atlantic)
"Ayalon’s primary criticism of the UNRWA is that it has failed to resolve a single case of Palestinian displacement, and that responsibility for the refugees should be handed over to the global refugee agency — the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR) — so that Palestinians can be treated somewhat like refugees from other crisis areas such as Bosnia, Congo, or Darfur. This would actually subverts his own argument for resettlement, though; UNHCR’s long-standing policy, based in international law, is that the preferred durable solution for refugees is voluntary return. Voluntary local integration and third-country resettlement are considered alternatives where repatriation is undesirable or not possible. In other words, if Palestinians were to be treated like refugees from Bosnia or other conflict zones, the international community would be forced to address their long-standing demand to choose whether to return to their place of origin — namely Israel."
‘The Maghreb’s Islamists must look West’ (Moha Ennaji, The Daily Star)
"There are also concerns about inexperienced Islamist officials’ ability to run finance ministries. But the region’s Islamist parties appear to be conscious of these risks, and determined to mitigate them. They know that they need economic growth to curb unemployment and pay for social services, so they are working to bolster the private sector. In many cases, they are even advocating the kind of free-market policies that their secular predecessors favored. Those policies should include trade liberalization. Until now, less than 2 percent of the Maghreb countries’ foreign trade has remained within the region. If the region’s new leaders can integrate their economies, a market of more than 75 million consumers would attract more foreign investment and trade with the rest of the world."
–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey