In some polls of Middle East opinion, Obama ranks lower than Bush. And now here come assessments from the region's intelligentsia. "Give Obama an ‘F’ in the Middle East," writes Lebanese journalist Michael Young, author of the award winning account of the Cedar Revolution, The Ghosts of Martyrs Square. "What are the American priorities in the Middle East?" asks Young in Beirut's DailyStar, "No one knows."
Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs this afternoon that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad isn’t going to survive the 5-month long uprising against his regime. “He can’t win this,” said Feltman, head of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs—which, barring any revisions or corrections coming from the White House, now seems to be the administration’s official assessment. Assad is going down.
Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati has finally managed to form a cabinet. Since Saad Hariri’s “national unity” government was toppled in January, due to disagreements over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating the assassination of Hariri’s father Rafiq, it is hardly surprising that this cabinet is dominated by pro-Syrian figures eager to end Lebanon’s cooperation with the STL.
Berlin—Many European reactions to the recent murders by radical Islamists of pro- Palestinian Israeli filmmaker Juliano Mer-Khamis and Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni replicate the typical recurrence of the same: Shift the blame to Israel in an a priori fashion without delving into existing empirical evidence.
With the popular uprising in Syria completing its first month, protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime have spread to encompass most Syrian regions and cities, including now the capital, Damascus. On Friday, April 15, crowds from surrounding suburbs swarmed the city, heading downtown to Abbasiyyin Square where the police fired on protesters and closed all roads and entrances leading toward the square.
For the last several days, Syrian workers have gathered in front of their embassy here to demonstrate on behalf of the embattled regime in Damascus. Pity those poor wage laborers who have no choice but to wave the flag, lest they lose the privilege that entitles them to piece together a measly living in a country where they’re largely condemned.
The Lebanese seem to be keeping mum after Bashar al-Assad’s speech this afternoon. Sure, there are no doubt plenty of opinions to go around, but why bring unnecessary attention to Lebanon’s own problems?
If the Saudis and other Gulf Cooperation Council members thought that sending more than a 1,000 additional troops to quell the uprising in Bahrain would prevent it from influencing the rest of the region, they miscalculated. The repercussions are already being felt here in Lebanon.
After two months of Arabs spontaneously taking to the streets to protest against their regimes, there's another kind of uprising going on here in Lebanon. The setting isn’t even an Arab street, but rather Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport; and the occasion isn’t a protest, but rather a “flash mob” executing a traditional Lebanese song and dance routine, “Dabke.”
As the remnants of Lebanon's March 14 pro-democracy has taken to the streets of Beirut and other Lebanese cities to protest against what has now become a government led by Hezbollah and its allies, it's worth remembering why the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) matters.
Last week Tunisians deposed their president for life, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. So now we have the week of tear gas in the Middle East, with Arab security services and militaries pitted against their countrymen. In Egypt, riot police are firing tear gas at protesters, and the same is so in Algeria, where demonstrators are faced off against a regime that presided over a civil war costing the lives of a quarter million people. In Lebanon, where the Lebanese Armed Forces have used tear gas against demonstrators, it’s a little different. In Beirut and other cities the remnants of the March 14 pro-democracy movement have taken to the streets in a “Day of Rage” to protest what is essentially a coup d’etat engineered by a terrorist organization, Hezbollah.