Syrian workers hold general strike; voter turnout is low in local elections

  Syrian workers hold general strike; voter turnout is low in local elections Syrian opposition activists said most of Syria’s capital of Damascus has been shut down, and shops throughout the country were closed in the largest general strike since the protest movement began in March. According to the Local Coordination Committees, regime forces retaliated ...

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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: British Prime Minister David Cameron greets King Hamad Al-Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, outside Number 10 Downing Street on December 12, 2011 in London, England. King Hamad Al-Khalifa is visiting the UK for the first time following violence between security forces and protesters earlier this year. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

 

Syrian workers hold general strike; voter turnout is low in local elections

Syrian opposition activists said most of Syria's capital of Damascus has been shut down, and shops throughout the country were closed in the largest general strike since the protest movement began in March. According to the Local Coordination Committees, regime forces retaliated by burning down a factory in Aleppo. At the same time, the county is holding local elections for 17,588 seats in Syria's 1,337 administrative units. Overall voter turnout is expected to be very low as opposition activists have called for a boycott and many residents fear leaving their homes to go to the polls. The voting comes amid one of the fiercest clashes since the start of the uprisings between government forces and defectors loosely aligned into the Free Syria Army (FSA). Syria's 12th Armored Brigade, based in Isra, a town 25 miles from Jordan in the south, stormed the town of Busra al-Harir, where the FSA was allegedly hiding and waging attacks. In an escalation of international tensions, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made a statement accusing Syrians of being behind the attack that wounded five UNIFIL peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last week, though he offered no evidence. Meanwhile, the Arab League will meet on Saturday to discuss Syria's conditional acceptance of a peace plan involving international monitors.

 

Syrian workers hold general strike; voter turnout is low in local elections

Syrian opposition activists said most of Syria’s capital of Damascus has been shut down, and shops throughout the country were closed in the largest general strike since the protest movement began in March. According to the Local Coordination Committees, regime forces retaliated by burning down a factory in Aleppo. At the same time, the county is holding local elections for 17,588 seats in Syria’s 1,337 administrative units. Overall voter turnout is expected to be very low as opposition activists have called for a boycott and many residents fear leaving their homes to go to the polls. The voting comes amid one of the fiercest clashes since the start of the uprisings between government forces and defectors loosely aligned into the Free Syria Army (FSA). Syria’s 12th Armored Brigade, based in Isra, a town 25 miles from Jordan in the south, stormed the town of Busra al-Harir, where the FSA was allegedly hiding and waging attacks. In an escalation of international tensions, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made a statement accusing Syrians of being behind the attack that wounded five UNIFIL peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last week, though he offered no evidence. Meanwhile, the Arab League will meet on Saturday to discuss Syria’s conditional acceptance of a peace plan involving international monitors.

Headlines

  • At least 16 prisoners, 12 thought to be associated with al-Qaeda, escaped from a Yemeni jail in the southern city of Aden in the second jailbreak since June.
  • Israel closed the Mugrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount, drawing condemnation from groups including Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel approved construction of 40 West Bank housing units in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. President Barack Obama are meeting to discuss “post-war” relations as the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline nears.
  • Clashes erupted in the Libyan capital of Tripoli as the National Transitional Council held its first meeting on national reconciliation.
  • The Arab League and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad condemned the remarks of U.S. presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that Palestinians are an “invented” people and are “terrorists.”

Daily Snapshot

British Prime Minister David Cameron greets King Hamad Al-Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, outside Number 10 Downing Street on December 12, 2011 in London, England. King Hamad Al-Khalifa is visiting the UK for the first time following violence between security forces and protesters earlier this year (Oli Scarff/Getty Images).

Arguments & Analysis

‘Grasping at peace, war zone of a city tests Yemen’ (Kareem Fahim, New York Times)

“Yemen has been caught in a cycle of protest, repression and factional fighting that simply will not let go, even though, as in Taiz, there are many moments that appear to signal a breakthrough, as when the president agreed to step down. The interim government that took power in Yemen last week amid guarded optimism faces an array of daunting challenges. The economy is near collapse; an insurgency is raging in the country’s north; southern groups are pressing demands for their own state; and militants linked to Al Qaeda, capitalizing on the chaos, have seized some territory.”

‘The Kurds’ place in the Arab Spring’ (Riccardo Dugulin, Open Democracy)

“In the foreseeable future, the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Syria and Turkey will continue to react with a ‘minority’ mentality, protecting their interests and forging alliances with those most able to protect them. Such a perspective does not bode well for long-term stability in a region torn by internal conflicts and terrorism. But the Kurds remain nevertheless a non-radicalized non-Arab movement which may prove to be an essential broker for international interests in an essential area of the Middle East.”

‘Jordan’s club of has-beens’ (Tim Sebastian, International Herald Tribune)

“Among all the strange and curious sights in the Middle East is the appearance of a new political clique here that is attracting record membership. Its members are often seen at the heart of Amman’s glittering social whirl, and although they are invariably household names, their past looks decidedly more thrilling than their future…They are the rapidly expanding club of former ministers of King Abdullah II – several hundred, by some estimates – who came to the well, drank as best they could and were then sent home to think about what they’d done wrong.”

Recently on the Channel

‘What Egypt’s military doesn’t what its citizens to know’ by Robert Springborg

‘Has Egypt’s revolution left women behind?’ by Mara Revkin

‘Syria comes of age’ by David Kenner

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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