Three dictators wobble, but don't yet fall

Submitted by Matthew on 8 June, 2011 - 10:16

On Saturday 4 June, one of the three remaining Arab despots confronting mass rebellions — Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen — seemed to concede defeat, fleeing to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. It was reported that 35 top officials had fled with him.

Tens of thousands celebrated in the capital, Sanaa, on Sunday 5 June.

But on Monday 6 June, Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, deputising for Saleh, refused to meet the opposition parties to discuss a transfer of power. He said Saleh would soon return, and there could be no talks until then.

The USA and the EU are urging Saleh to step down.

If Saleh digs in, the fragile semi-truce in Sanaa will surely break down, and open armed conflict break out again.

Aside from the main confrontation between an opposition bloc and Saleh, Al Qaeda supporters are reported to have seized the city of Zinjibar.

In Libya, after a period of stalemate, on 6 June the Benghazi-centred rebels took the city of Yafran. Al Jazeera reports that more Qaddafi officers have defected, and many reporters say that the quiet in Tripoli, under Qaddafi’s control, is fragile, hiding mass discontent.

Russia has accused NATO of “mission creep”, charging that the NATO powers will soon have ground troops in Libya. Although British and French helicopter gunships have been deployed in recent days, stepping up the NATO aerial operation, the British government denied any intention of using “combat” ground troops.

In Syria, too, the dictatorship, which a few weeks look poised to crush the rebellion at least for the time being, is in trouble.

On Monday 6 June it claimed that the opposition had killed 120 police, in an attempt to provide a pretext for increased repression.

As Joshua Landis of Syria Comment sums it up, “the government has met with no success in quelling the revolt despite an escalating death rate and an ever more ruthless crack down”.

Syrian opposition forces — Kurdish groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various Western-based exiles — held a conference in Turkey, 31 May to 3 June.

After, reportedly, some wrangling with the Brotherhood, they agreed a more or less secular programme, with no social or economic demands: for Assad to go, and “for a pluralistic, parliamentary, and democratic regime”. Some exile oppositionists have dismissed the conference in Turkey as unrepresentative, but there is no sign yet of a clear left-wing or working-class pole within the opposition movement.

But it is immensely brave and continues to go on the streets week after week to risk death.

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