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Feb 3rd, 2011

Yemen Next: 20,000 on Streets in ‘Day of Rage’

‘The people want regime change … No to corruption, no to dictatorship’

Image: Opposition supporters shout slogans during an anti-government protest in Sanaa
Opposition supporters shout slogans during an anti-government protest in Sanaa on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Tens of thousands of Yemenis squared off in street protests for and against the government during an opposition-led “day of rage,” a day after President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to step down in 2013. (Photo credit: Khaled Abdullah / Reuters)

Reuters and The Associated Press via
Feb. 3, 2011

SANAA — More than 20,000 Yemenis filled the streets of Sanaa on Thursday for a “day of rage” rally, demanding a change in government and saying President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s offer to step down in 2013 was not enough.

Further anti-government protests were expected across Yemen, which Saleh has ruled for more than three decades, and supporters of the president were driving around the capital urging Yemenis over loudspeakers to join pro-government counterdemonstrations.

But by early morning, anti-government protesters had already gathered the largest crowd since a wave of protests hit the Arabian Peninsula state two weeks ago, inspired by protests that toppled Tunisia’s ruler and threaten Egypt’s president. …

Saleh, eyeing the unrest spreading in the Arab world, indicated on Wednesday he would leave office when his term ends in 2013, and promised his son would not take over the reins of government, among a host of other political concessions.

It was his boldest gambit yet to stave off turmoil in Yemen, a key ally of the United States against al-Qaida, as he sought to avert a showdown with the opposition that might risk sparking an Egypt-style uprising in the deeply impoverished state. …

The risks are high for Yemen, on the brink of becoming a failed state, as it tries to fight a resurgent al-Qaida wing, quell southern separatism, and cement peace with Shiite rebels in the north, all in the face of crushing poverty. One third of Yemenis face chronic hunger.

The United States relies heavily on Saleh to help combat al-Qaida’s regional Yemen-based arm which also targets neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Instability in Yemen would present serious political and security risks for Gulf states.

However, new U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Thursday said Saleh “appears to be muddling through a challenging situation” and is relying on a “shrinking leadership circle.” …

Full story


Topical reports on this site

Yemenis protest in the Radfan district of Lahj on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 against a government raid that targeted suspected al-Qaida members. (Photo credit: AFP — Getty Images)

Violence Erupts in Egypt (Feb. 2, 2011)

Fears of Egyptian Domino Effect (Jan. 31, 2011)

Yemen: Uncertain Ally Against al-Qaida (Jan. 9, 2010)

Battle Lines Are Drawn in Yemen (Jan. 2, 2010)


‘Day of Rage’ Protest Urged in Syria

The Associated Press via
Feb. 3, 2011

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Syrian opposition groups are using Facebook and Twitter sites to call for a “day of rage” protest in the country Friday. …

The activists are demanding reforms from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s ruler for a decade, the Voice of America said. …

Syria, like Egypt, is plagued by poverty, unemployment and corruption. …

The protest call is just the latest reaction after demonstrations led to the departure of Tunisia’s president and embroiled Egypt in conflict. …

Full story


Algeria Promises More Freedoms to Avert Protests

Image: Algerian riot police patrol the streets of central Oran, some 270 miles west of Algiers, on Jan. 7
Algerian riot police patrol the streets of central Oran, some 270 miles west of Algiers, on Jan. 7, 2011during clashes. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 that the country’s 19-year state of emergency would be lifted “in the very near future.” (Photo credit: Stringer / AFP — Getty Images)

By Christian Lowe and Lamine Chikhi

Feb. 3, 2011

ALGIERS — Algeria promised to end a 19-year-old state of emergency and provide more political freedoms on Thursday, concessions designed to keep out a wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

The announcement by the energy exporting nation followed pressure from government opponents, some inspired by unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, who demanded the emergency powers be scrapped and are planning a protest in the capital on February 12.

The government had argued it needed the extra powers under the state of emergency to fight Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda but the insurgency has abated, sparking public debate about whether those powers are still justified. …

Early in January, before the wave of protests in other Arab countries, several Algerian cities were shaken by rioting over food prices which killed two people and injured hundreds.

Since then, the government intervened to cut prices on staple foodstuffs and issued instructions to speed up imports of wheat, in an effort to ensure there was no disruption to bread supplies which could rekindle riots. …

Full story


Jordan’s King Fires Government, West Bank to Hold Local Vote

The Associated Press and Reuters via
Feb. 1, 2011

AMMAN, Jordan — King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his government following street protests and ordered a former prime minister to launch immediate political reforms on Tuesday, but the opposition dismissed the move as insufficient.

Abdullah asked Marouf Bakhit, a conservative former premier with a military background, to head the government after accepting the resignation of Samir Rifai. Protesters had demanded Rifai’s dismissal in protests across the country that mirrored the regime ouster in Tunisia and the turmoil in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Western-backed Palestinian government in the West Bank said Tuesday it will hold local council elections “as soon as possible” — a surprise move reflecting fears that massive anti-government protests spreading across the Arab world could inspire unrest there, too. …

Under fire from an enraged public over high food prices, Rifai announced wage increases two weeks ago to civil servants and the military in an attempt to restore calm.

But protests continued across Jordan, with demonstrators blaming corruption spawned by free-market reforms for the plight of the country’s poor. …

Full story


2/6/11 Update

Iraqis Protest Poor Public Services Across Ccountry

Image: An Iraqi soldier gestures
An Iraqi army soldier gestures during a demonstration against a lack of basic services near Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. The banner in Arabic says that the protesters are asking for jobs and also details the dismissal of more than 1200 employees of the Ministry of Electricity. (Photo credit: Hadi Mizban / AP)

By Saad Abdul-Kadir

Feb. 6, 2011

BAGHDAD — Protesters scuffled with riot police and marched along sewage-filled streets in demonstrations across Iraq on Sunday to demand better utilities and job security from their government.

Authorities estimated several thousand protesters turned out in Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi and a small town in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province. They were galvanizing on popular uprisings across the Mideast to repeat long-standing complaints about Iraq’s limited electricity, shoddy water and sewage services, and potential layoffs in government jobs.

“Our children have many diseases because of sewage problems and accumulated trash in the area,” said Ali Hassan, a resident of Boub al-Sham, where more than 1,000 protesters gathered amid stagnant pools of water and a stench of waste in the air. …

In the southern port city of Basra, around 1,500 demonstrators got into a shoving match with riot police who lined up to protect the provincial government headquarters. …

While protests in Iraq so far have come nowhere close to the scale or intensity of those in Egypt or Tunisia, they nonetheless have unnerved government officials. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this week announced he would not run for a third term and that he would return half his salary to the treasury in an effort to close gaps between Iraq’s politically privileged and its poor.

In a press conference Sunday, al-Maliki said he would increase monthly food rations for all Iraqis by about 15,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $12. He also rejected the use of violence against demonstrators, noting that “we have to look at the protests in a civilized way and we should deal properly with the demands.” …


2/14/11 Update

Yemeni Police Crack Down on Anti-Government Crowds

Yemeni anti-government protestors, right, scuffle with government supporters during a rally demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Yemeni police have clashed with anti-government protesters demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Several thousand protesters, many of them university students, tried to reach the central square in the capital of Sanaa on Sunday, but were pushed back by police using clubs. It was the third straight day of anti-government protests. (Photo credit: Hani Mohammed / AP)

By Ahmed al-Haj

Feb. 13, 2011

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni police armed with sticks and daggers beat back thousands of protesters marching through the capital in a third straight day of demonstrations calling for political reforms and the resignation of the country’s U.S.-allied president.

The protests have mushroomed since crowds gathered Friday to celebrate the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after an 18-day revolt fueled by similar grievances. Yemen is one of several countries in the Middle East feeling the aftershocks, as pro-reform demonstrators take inspiration from the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 3, 2010

Bachmann Healthcare Paranoia


One year ago today, I reported that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, at a political forum in Rochester, Minn., made the wild claim that President Obama’s health reform proposals, beyond being “the crown jewel of socialism,” could lead to “gangster government” and “absolute abject corruption,” with people terrified to speak out against the government for fear of being blacklisted for denial of health care.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — February 3, 2009

Afghanistan — Obama’s Vietnam?

Image: Bridge destroyed in Pakistan
Militants blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan, severing a key NATO supply route on the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, Feb. 3, 2009. (Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad / AP)

Two years ago today, on Feb. 3, 2009, I highlighted some Afghanistan-Vietnam parallels: A president, eager to show his toughness, vows to do what it takes to “win”; the nation we’re supposedly rescuing is no nation at all but rather a deeply divided, semi-failed state with an incompetent, corrupt government held to be illegitimate by a significant portion of its population; the enemy is well accustomed to resisting foreign invaders and can escape into convenient refuges across the border; there are constraints on America striking those sanctuaries; neighboring countries may see a chance to bog America down in a costly war; and there is no easy way out.

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