Context: After over 7-months of protest against the Assad regime, and the death of an estimated 3,000 civilians, including 187 children, the situation in Syria remains uncertain. Earlier this month, news that members of the opposition united to form the Syrian National Council (SNC) marked the emergence of a new leadership challenging Assad’s authority. Yet dialogue remains limited between the old regime and the National Council, which refuses to discuss matters further until Assad resigns his authority.
On the ground: Today, violence continues. Sixteen people were reportedly killed in Syria on Sunday, including eight in the central city of Homs. State-controlled news agencies and security forces continue to refer to the opposition groups and protesters as “terrorist groups” and have reportedly committed egregious abuses in punishing their uprisings, including subjecting them to beatings, shootings, and arrest. The environment remains threatening and security is a concern for opposition forces, antigovernment protesters, and foreigners, including diplomats. Hospitals throughout Syria have reportedly been pressured by security forces to assist in brutal crackdowns on dissenters; many have faced beatings and been denied care by at least four hospitals in Banias, Tel Kalakh, and Homs.
International Relations: Syria is becoming increasingly isolated. Following the October 2nd announcement of the formation of the Syrian National Council, the US joined European nations in support of a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Syria and threatening sanctions for continuing the crackdown on protesters. China and Russia ultimately joined forces to block the resolution, however, members of the Arab League also met recently in Cairo and gave Syria until the end of the month to enact a cease-fire and begin a dialogue with the opposition before considering alternative action. The SNC, along with other critics of the NATO-intervention in Libya, is emphasizing internal oversight of domestic affairs and is resisting foreign intervention in resolving ongoing conflict and negotiating peace.
Context: After over eight months of conflict, the Libyan opposition forces have defeated and killed Muammar Gaddafi, ending 42 years of rule by his regime. The National Transitional Council of Libya (NTC), which was formed to act as the “political face of the revolution,” continues to work as the interim authority. With over 40 members, the NTC has been recognized as the legitimate representative of Libya by the European Union, the African Union, the UN General Assembly, and the Arab League. The NTC has released a Constitutional Declaration, which sets forth a plan to transition the country to democracy with a fairly elected government. NTC’s true authority and progress will be evaluated and measured in coming weeks.
On the ground: Following Gaddafi’s death, Libya has come under attack for the brutality with which he was murdered. The global community has pressured the NTC to commit to an investigation of his death, which the NTC has publically agreed to pursue. Meanwhile, the definitive end of Gaddafi’s rule leaves Libya in a power vacuum. The NTC has not yet proven it is able to successfully bring Libya’s disparate communities and constituencies under control, and it is not even clear that there is a unified army to support the transition. However, the Council has met several times and has put key players in place to support the transition from Gaddafi and the unrest of the last eight months to a peaceful democracy.
International Relations: The apparent brutality with which Gaddafi was murdered has called into question what human rights will look like in the post-Gaddafi landscape. Following the NATO-led intervention, the US pledged its continued support this week to help destroy weapon stockpiles and treat the wounded. British authorities have also pledged to support the reconstruction phase.
Context: Protests were incited in early 2011 against President Saleh, who reacted early on with a pledge not to extend his presidency past 2013 or transfer power to his son. As protests continued and violence engulfed the country, President Saleh declared a state of emergency. Since then, Saleh has made repeated offers to step down and cooperate, but when it came time to demonstrate his commitment to these proposals for peaceful transition, he failed to complete negotiations and sign the transition deal.
On the ground: The north of the capital city of Sana’a has been plagued by ongoing explosions in recent days. The situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate and even efforts to establish a Transition Council have resulted in disagreement and demonstrated the lack of cohesion among anti-government protesters. The security situation throughout Yemen, including in Taiz and especially in war-torn Sana’a, has devolved. Heavy gunfire is common and deaths continue to be reported each week. Tensions continue to increase but it is not clear how resolution will be reached. President Saleh reportedly empowered the Vice President to sign the transitional deal on his behalf, however, the opposition refuses to engage in any dialogue until he proves that his word is backed with credible action.
International Relations: The government announced a cease-fire this Tuesday. The press also reported that President Saleh met with the US Ambassador to discuss stepping down. Yet gunfire continues to be heard throughout Yemen and President Saleh has yet to concede power. Meanwhile, he continues to put forth additional conditions for leaving office, the latest a vague outreach for “guarantees” from the Europeans, US, and the Gulf. The demands have been labeled a delay tactic to stall a UN Resolution calling for a ceasefire and for Saleh to step down.