Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Protests Continue Across Middle East

The Saudis regime hopes that a $37 billion package to buy off the discontented Saudi populace to the extent that they will not rise up to topple the regime. The Saudis, by acting quickly may have averted the kind of bloodbath seen in Libya, but money isn't going to solve the problem.

Oman, after first trying to disperse the crowds with force, has taken a similar tact, but it doesn't appear as though the attempts to buy off the crowds will work in the long term - especially when they see the success of Tunisians and Egyptians in ridding themselves of autocratic and kleptocratic regimes that brutally crushed opposition groups for decades and stifled economic and social development. Just because the Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id isn't as bad or harsh an autocratic rule as others in the region doesn't make him a role model, let alone someone that should have unfettered power. The Omani people are realizing this as well. They want something different, and something better than autocratic rule.

Protesters in Yemen have once again taken to the streets.

There are now attempts by an imam aligned with al Qaeda to claim that the efforts are an attempt by Israel and the US to destabilize the Arab world. It's a laughable claim, considering that the US strategic interest in the region was to maintain stability - by backing regimes it considered loyal to US interests, regardless of their domestic policies.
As thousands of demonstrators for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh took to the streets on Tuesday, a cleric accused by the United States of having links to Al Qaeda joined the protesters for the first time to call for the replacement of the government with an Islamic state.

An elderly antigovernment protester reacted during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen in Sana.

The call by Sheik Abdul Majid al-Zindani seemed a marked contrast to the upheaval that brought down the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and threatens the rulers of Libya, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen where uprisings have been seen as secular and inspired by democratic goals.

Mr. Zindani’s appearance coincided with an unusual display of anti-American sentiment by Mr. Saleh, who accused Washington and Israel of fomenting unrest to destabilize the Arab world — an accusation that seemed more remarkable because the United States has been Mr. Saleh’s most powerful Western backer during his three decades in power.

“From Tunis to the Sultanate of Oman,” Mr. Saleh said, the wave of protest is “managed by Tel Aviv and under the supervision of Washington,” he said.
Bahraini officials are trying to negotiate with opposition groups ahead of planned protests following the deaths of several protesters last week.
A Bahraini minister urged opposition protesters on Tuesday to sit down for a national dialogue with the government, as another mass rally was expected later in the day in the capital, Manama.

'We cannot have a fruitful discussion unless we sit at one table. Everyone can bring his ideas and his thoughts about the future of Bahrain,' said Minister of Social Development Fatima al-Balooshi, speaking with reporters in Geneva.

His plea came days after members of an Islamic Shiite opposition group resigned from parliament. There has also been a partial cabinet reshuffle, and the release of hundreds of prisoners by the king.

Parliamentarians from the largest opposition bloc, al-Wefaq, resigned on Sunday to protest seven people killed in clashes between protesters and security forces. The group, which held 18 of 40 seats in the lower chamber, is calling for the government to step down.
The Bahraini government also denies reports that Saudi tanks were involved in the show of force to stop additional protests, but that those tanks that crossed the causeway into Bahrain were Bahraini tanks returning from celebrations in Kuwait.

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