Mideast news brief: U.S. warns its citizens to leave Syria as crackdown escalates
U.S. warns its citizens to leave Syria as crackdown escalates The U.S. State Department has begun evacuating some of the embassy staff in Syria as well as all embassy dependents, and has issued a warning to all other U.S. citizens in Syria that they should leave, due to “uncertainty and volatility” in the country. As ...
U.S. warns its citizens to leave Syria as crackdown escalates
U.S. warns its citizens to leave Syria as crackdown escalates
The U.S. State Department has begun evacuating some of the embassy staff in Syria as well as all embassy dependents, and has issued a warning to all other U.S. citizens in Syria that they should leave, due to “uncertainty and volatility” in the country. As the United States and the U.K. consider a new set of sanctions against Syria — such as freezing the assets of top Syrian officials — U.S. officials admit it will be difficult to exercise leverage on a country that is already under so many sanctions. In 2006, the U.S. banned transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria; in early 2007, it banned transactions with four government-related research organizations after it accused them of working on proliferating WMD; the Obama administration now struggles to find new effective sanctions. Syria intensified its crackdown on Monday when it sent in eight tanks into the city of Dara’a. With nearly 400 people killed since protests began in the country about five weeks ago, this week could be signaling a brutal new phase as international leaders condemn the “completely deplorable” violence.
- Yemen’s opposition accepts a deal for the transfer of power, allowing protests to continue until President Saleh resigns.
- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi approves the use of Italian air force in NATO’s air strikes in Libya.
- Bahrain expels Iranian diplomat over alleged ties to a “spy ring,” escalating tensions between the two countries.
- New poll finds that Egyptians are full of hope about their future, and free and fair elections this fall.
- Turkey FM says Israel should be careful not to repeat its Gaza flotilla mistake, and has a responsibility to lift its blockade on the Strip.
Yemeni protesters pray during a demonstration calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down immediately in Taiz (Taez), the second most-populated city of Yemen, south of Sanaa, on April 25, 2011 before police and ‘gunmen in civilian clothes’ opened fire with live rounds and tear gas, wounding 50 protesters, 25 with bullets, and leaving at least 250 suffering from breathing problems, witnesses said (AFP/Getty Images).
‘Egypt’s liberals are losing the battle’ (Gideon Rachman, Financial Times)
“Some liberals argue that the pursuit of justice and the exposure of the crimes of the old regime are crucial to the establishment of a new Egypt. They also fear that the “deep state” of the Mubarak era will re-emerge and thwart change, unless it is exposed and pursued through the courts. These are legitimate arguments. But an overconcentration on the past risks losing the future. The political dangers are heightened by a serious deterioration in the economy. Tourism is a crucial industry, but many tourists seem too frightened to go to Egypt at the moment. Visiting the Pyramids in Giza last week I virtually had the place to myself. A lot of foreign and domestic investment is also on hold. Inflation is running at 18 per cent and food price inflation is over 50 per cent. In an effort to maintain stability, the government is pouring money into subsidies for food and energy. But the budget deficit is now about 12 per cent of GDP and foreign reserves are falling, as the central bank struggles to support the currency. Some fear that Egypt is heading for a balance-of-payments crisis. An International Monetary Fund-style austerity regime in an already poor country will not be a great advert for the post-Mubarak order.”
‘Iran: Authority deficit’ (Ali Ansari, Chatham House)
“Conspicuous consumption,mounting inflation, an economy driven by patronage, speculation and rents; all this would be bad enough, but the government is also confronted by a serious crisis of trust. As Iranian economists protested publicly several years ago, perhaps the most serious damage being done is the loss of social capital. People are no longer willing to accept or tolerate what they are being told. You simply cannot expect to fool all of the people all of the time. One might have thought that this message had come through loud and clear in the aftermath of the last elections: people were no longer willing to believe what they were being told and were fed upwith being treated as fools. This reall ywas the heart of the political crisis in authority facing the government. We may choose to label it ‘democratic’ or a ‘Green movement’, but at its core the problem was not complicated. It was about human dignity and the rights of the citizen, above all to be taken seriously by those who seek to govern them. In this acute sense, the change in attitudes does reflect a profound democratic turn in the Iranian public. But it is one the government has chosen to contemptuously ignore. This insult to injury has only exacerbated and prolonged the crisis of authority between state and society.”
‘The epic Arab battles reaches Syria’ (Rami Khouri, Daily Star)
“For some…the Assad regime [is] the Middle Eastern equivalent of the banks that were too big to…collapse during the American economic crisis three years ago, because the spillover effect would be too horrible to contemplate. The specter of sectarian-based chaos within a post-Assad Syria that could spread to other parts of the Middle East is frightening to many people. Yet many, perhaps most, Syrians indicate with their growing public protests that they see their current reality as more frightening – especially the lack of democracy, widespread corruption, human rights abuses, one-party rule, economic and environmental stress, excessive security dominance and burgeoning youth unemployment. The epic battle between regime security and citizen rights that has characterized the modern Arab world for three long and weary generations enters its most important phase in Syria in the coming few weeks, with current Arab regional trends suggesting that citizens who collectively and peacefully demand their human and civil rights cannot be denied.”
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