Yemen begins national dialogue amid southern protests

On Monday, Yemen began a National Dialogue Conference which aims to reconcile the recent uprisings, draft a new constitution, and prepare for elections to be held in 2014. The talks, held in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, are part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that ushered in a transition of power from ...

AFP/Getty Images/MOHAMMED HUWAIS
AFP/Getty Images/MOHAMMED HUWAIS
AFP/Getty Images/MOHAMMED HUWAIS

On Monday, Yemen began a National Dialogue Conference which aims to reconcile the recent uprisings, draft a new constitution, and prepare for elections to be held in 2014. The talks, held in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, are part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that ushered in a transition of power from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled for 33 years. The National Dialogue, expected to run over the course of six months, has brought together about 565 representatives. However, many influential Yemenis and southern secessionists have pulled out of the National Dialogue. Southern separatist activists are protesting in Aden, a port city in the south of the country, holding placards saying "No dialogue under occupation! Independence is our choice!" In the southeastern city of Tarim, Yemeni police reportedly shot and killed a protester during clashes at a demonstration against the National Dialogue. More than 60,000 Yemeni troops have been deployed in Sanaa over increased security concerns.

Syria

Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, began talks in Istanbul on Monday amid efforts to form an interim government to oversee and provide services to regions under opposition control. The group remains divided over whether to include members of the Assad regime in a political transition. The meeting has already been delayed twice due to disagreements over what type of government should be formed, and who should lead it. Some coalition members believe the formation of a government will secure increased foreign assistance. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Syrian Army Brigadier General Muhammad Khallouf, reportedly defected and escaped to Jordan with his family. Although the pace of defections of senior officials has recently decreased, Khallouf's would be one of the most senior defections since Syria's uprising began two years ago this week. In the central city of Homs, after a week of fierce clashes, opposition forces have reportedly broken through a year-long government blockade. Additionally, rebel forces reportedly overtook a Syrian military intelligence complex in the south near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

On Monday, Yemen began a National Dialogue Conference which aims to reconcile the recent uprisings, draft a new constitution, and prepare for elections to be held in 2014. The talks, held in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, are part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that ushered in a transition of power from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled for 33 years. The National Dialogue, expected to run over the course of six months, has brought together about 565 representatives. However, many influential Yemenis and southern secessionists have pulled out of the National Dialogue. Southern separatist activists are protesting in Aden, a port city in the south of the country, holding placards saying "No dialogue under occupation! Independence is our choice!" In the southeastern city of Tarim, Yemeni police reportedly shot and killed a protester during clashes at a demonstration against the National Dialogue. More than 60,000 Yemeni troops have been deployed in Sanaa over increased security concerns.

Syria

Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, began talks in Istanbul on Monday amid efforts to form an interim government to oversee and provide services to regions under opposition control. The group remains divided over whether to include members of the Assad regime in a political transition. The meeting has already been delayed twice due to disagreements over what type of government should be formed, and who should lead it. Some coalition members believe the formation of a government will secure increased foreign assistance. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Syrian Army Brigadier General Muhammad Khallouf, reportedly defected and escaped to Jordan with his family. Although the pace of defections of senior officials has recently decreased, Khallouf’s would be one of the most senior defections since Syria’s uprising began two years ago this week. In the central city of Homs, after a week of fierce clashes, opposition forces have reportedly broken through a year-long government blockade. Additionally, rebel forces reportedly overtook a Syrian military intelligence complex in the south near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Headlines

  • A car bomb at a bus station has killed 10 people in Basra, a southern Iraqi city.
  • Abdullah Ocalan, a Kurdish PKK leader, is expected to finalize a cease-fire agreement on Monday in efforts to end a 28-year insurgency against the Turkish government.
  • Ayman Sharawneh, a Palestinian man who had been on hunger strike since July 2012 protesting his detention by Israel, has been released. He has agreed to stay in Gaza for 10 years.

Arguments and Analysis

Obama’ visit: Embrace the victory of politics over substance (Daniel Levy, Haaretz)

"What then is left for a visiting President to do? Some cling to the notion that more American assurances and carrots will encourage Israel on the road to peace. That is farcical. The juiciest economic, military and diplomatic carrots have already been conferred on Israel irrespective of its entrenchment of occupation or violations of international law. No American carrot will induce Naftali Bennett or Uri Ariel, or Netanyahu and his faction of annexationists to abandon the settlements. So if the President is unwilling to change the rules of the game, better that he go with the flow, that he embrace and own the primacy of the political in this relationship. He can dust-off and re-tool part of the Clinton playbook of the 1990’s for engineering Israeli politics.

And that is probably what Obama’s visit should and in fact may start to do. By speaking directly to Israelis, including at an especially convened event in Jerusalem, Obama is doing something he avoided in his first term: He is accumulating some personal credit in the bank with the Israeli public. He should be looking to create an opportunity during his second term to draw on that deposit by building toward a clear moment of decision for Israel on the terms of reference for a two-state deal, notably a territorial resolution based on the 1967 lines with equal and minimal land swaps."

Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start? (Ben Ehrenreich, The New York Times)

On the evening of Feb. 10, the living room of Bassem Tamimi’s house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was filled with friends and relatives smoking and sipping coffee, waiting for Bassem to return from prison. His oldest son, Waed, 16, was curled on the couch with his 6-year-old brother, Salam, playing video games on the iPhone that the prime minister of Turkey had given their sister, Ahed. She had been flown to Istanbul to receive an award after photos of her shaking her fist at an armed Israeli soldier won her, at 11, a brief but startling international celebrity. Their brother Abu Yazan, who is 9, was on a tear in the yard, wrestling with an Israeli activist friend of Bassem’s. Nariman, the children’s mother, crouched in a side room, making the final preparations for her husband’s homecoming meal, laughing at the two photographers competing for shots from the narrow doorway as she spread onions onto oiled flatbreads.

…It took the people of Nabi Saleh more than a year to get themselves organized. In December 2009 they held their first march, protesting not just the loss of the spring but also the entire complex system of control – of permits, checkpoints, walls, prisons – through which Israel maintains its hold on the region. Nabi Saleh quickly became the most spirited of the dozen or so West Bank villages that hold weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. Since the demonstrations began, more than 100 people in the village have been jailed. Nariman told me that by her count, as of February, clashes with the army have caused 432 injuries, more than half to minors. The momentum has been hard to maintain – the weeks go by, and nothing changes for the better – but still, despite the arrests, the injuries and the deaths, every Friday after the midday prayer, the villagers, joined at times by equal numbers of journalists and Israeli and foreign activists, try to march from the center of town to the spring, a distance of perhaps half a mile. And every Friday, Israeli soldiers stop them with some combination of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water-cannon blasts of a noxious liquid known as &
quot;skunk" and occasionally live fire.

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

<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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