Bahraini activists ignite “days of rage” at the top of the Grand Prix weekend

Police are tightening security in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, as protests escalate after activists called for "days of rage" during Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix weekend. Clashes between security forces and protesters in villages surrounding the capital began on Thursday night and continued through Friday morning. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades, and buckshot at the demonstrators who ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

Police are tightening security in Bahrain's capital, Manama, as protests escalate after activists called for "days of rage" during Bahrain's Formula One Grand Prix weekend. Clashes between security forces and protesters in villages surrounding the capital began on Thursday night and continued through Friday morning. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades, and buckshot at the demonstrators who retaliated by throwing petrol bombs at police and lighting tires on fire. Bahrain's government has been determined to hold the race, which in the past has been a major source of revenue for the country. The government maintains that Bahrain is secure, and they believe that the race, scheduled for Sunday, will demonstrate to the world that life is back to normal. The Grand Prix was canceled in 2011 after dozens of people were killed and thousands detained during unrest. According to an al Jazeera correspondent, "Most tourists and Formula One spectators are choosing to stay away from this race because it is just too controversial for them, I think people feel their security and personal wellbeing, cannot be guaranteed enough to make the trip worthwhile."

Syria

Syrian activists called for anti-government protests on Friday after the international community met to discuss Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan and further options to end the conflict. The ceasefire continues to falter, as violence persists throughout the country. According to the BBC's Ian Pannell reporting from northern Syria, helicopters have been firing at villages in Jabel al-Zawiya, and the Syrian government continues to shell the city of Homs. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed there were explosions and gunfire in the town of Qusair, about seven miles from the border with Lebanon. Diplomats accused Syria of failing to implement Annan's peace plan. At a "Friends of Security" meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of lying, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for "stronger measures" to bolster the ceasefire, such as an arms embargo and the Chapter 7 Security Council Resolution allowing for the use of military force. Meanwhile the U.N. Security Council negotiated terms for the U.N. observer mission with Syria. The mission is permitted to travel to any location in the country by foot or car, but is not allowed control over a private aircraft. While there are currently seven monitors in Syria, the United Nations hopes to have 30 by Monday, and wishes to expand the mission to 300, which must be approved by the U.N. Security Council and Syria. 

Police are tightening security in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, as protests escalate after activists called for "days of rage" during Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix weekend. Clashes between security forces and protesters in villages surrounding the capital began on Thursday night and continued through Friday morning. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades, and buckshot at the demonstrators who retaliated by throwing petrol bombs at police and lighting tires on fire. Bahrain’s government has been determined to hold the race, which in the past has been a major source of revenue for the country. The government maintains that Bahrain is secure, and they believe that the race, scheduled for Sunday, will demonstrate to the world that life is back to normal. The Grand Prix was canceled in 2011 after dozens of people were killed and thousands detained during unrest. According to an al Jazeera correspondent, "Most tourists and Formula One spectators are choosing to stay away from this race because it is just too controversial for them, I think people feel their security and personal wellbeing, cannot be guaranteed enough to make the trip worthwhile."

Syria

Syrian activists called for anti-government protests on Friday after the international community met to discuss Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and further options to end the conflict. The ceasefire continues to falter, as violence persists throughout the country. According to the BBC’s Ian Pannell reporting from northern Syria, helicopters have been firing at villages in Jabel al-Zawiya, and the Syrian government continues to shell the city of Homs. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed there were explosions and gunfire in the town of Qusair, about seven miles from the border with Lebanon. Diplomats accused Syria of failing to implement Annan’s peace plan. At a "Friends of Security" meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of lying, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for "stronger measures" to bolster the ceasefire, such as an arms embargo and the Chapter 7 Security Council Resolution allowing for the use of military force. Meanwhile the U.N. Security Council negotiated terms for the U.N. observer mission with Syria. The mission is permitted to travel to any location in the country by foot or car, but is not allowed control over a private aircraft. While there are currently seven monitors in Syria, the United Nations hopes to have 30 by Monday, and wishes to expand the mission to 300, which must be approved by the U.N. Security Council and Syria. 

Headlines  

Arguments & Analysis

‘The Coming Tests of the Syrian Opposition’ (Yezid Sayigh, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

"The opposition must also overcome deep-seated class divisions within Syrian society. Organized opposition groups-from the Syrian National Council and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to the National Coordination Body and others inside Syria-are made up of members of the country’s large urban middle class. These Syrians are neither recent, rural arrivistes nor wholly dependent on the state for their livelihood. In contrast, and with only a few exceptions, all the violence to date has taken place among communities hardest hit by a decade of neoliberal and predatory government policies-disinvestment in infrastructure, deteriorating public services, and severe subsidy cuts. They are found in provincial cities such as Dar’a, Idlib, and Deir el-Zor, as well as their rural hinterlands, "inner city" neighborhoods of Homs and Hama in which smuggling networks flourished. They come from the so-called rif (countryside) of Damascus and Aleppo, consisting of large urban poverty belts fueled by rural migration, interspersed with more settled, relatively affluent municipalities that are less openly hostile to the regime. This is the "other" Syria, which has become most alienated from the regime, taken to arms, and turned most visibly pious and Salafist."

‘Unraveling the Kurdish Conundrum’ (Morton Abramowitz and Jessica Sims, The National Interest)

"Given the close relationship between President Obama and Turkish prime minister Erdogan on Middle East issues, U.S. and Turkish policies toward Syrian and Iraqi Kurds are being carefully coordinated. But as turbulence continues to shake the region, Turkey’s policy toward its own Kurds now has serious implications for the regional Kurdish issue. The Obama administration has stayed quiet on Turkey’s domestic Kurdish policy because of long-standing, lingering Turkish fears that the United States is intent on dismembering Turkey for the Kurds. It supports Turkey’s efforts against the PKK and provides important intelligence support for fighting the PKK in northern Iraq. It is time, however, for Washington to remind Ankara, at least privately, that failure to address its domestic Kurdish situation harms Turkey’s ability to help shape broader Middle East outcomes. In the near term, both Washington and Ankara want to see Syrian Kurds become part of the government-in-exile Syrian National Council (SNC). This would make the opposition more representative of the Syrian population, deliver a blow to the Syrian regime, and isolate the PYD and PKK, who still support Assad. The United States and Turkey would need to convince the SNC and other opposition that minority rights are in the long-term interest of a future Syrian state and that international support will depend on whether they keep these promises. Turkey will want to be reassured that U.S. support for the Syrian Kurds will not result in a de facto Syrian version of the KRG-a second autonomous area would be a strong inducement to many Turkish Kurds."

‘Hunger in Yemen: Disaster Approaching’ (The Economist)

"In March, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) reported that levels of food insecurity in Yemen had doubled since 2009. Today 5m people go hungry so often that it affects their long-term health. According to Unicef, the WFP’s counterpart for children, some 30% of kids in Hodeida are "acutely" malnourished, threatened with stunted growth and cognitive impairment. The 30% figure is twice the level the UN uses as a benchmark for crisis. And hunger is rising, says Lydia Tinka, a veteran of multiple African crises who works in Hodeida for Oxfam, a British charity. The big aid agencies are gearing up for an appeal, but fear it will be hard to raise money until there is evidence that people are starving to death. Yemenis like to keep things behind closed doors; failure to care for children is seen as shameful and meetings with people like Anisa remain a rarity. Until poorer Yemenis open up or start dying, their plight risks being ignored."

–Mary Casey & Jennifer Parker

<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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