President Saleh has left Yemen and is currently being treated in a Saudi hospital. Many observers feel that this is the end for Salih but all that is certain is that a power vacuum remains. The Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has become acting President. In the tradition of Arab vice-presidents, Hadi was chosen for his weakness and lack of capacity/willingness to built his own power base. This has been confirmed by the fact that Hadi is not operating from the Presidential Palace - Saleh's son Ahmad who is the Commander of the Republican Guard has moved in. Meanwhile:
The official opposition meanwhile is hurrying to throw its support behind Hadi, calling for him to be named acting president, in an effort to start the clock on the 60 days and as a first step towards new elections. It seems the opposition is hoping that this can short circuit any potential return by Salih from Riyadh, leaving him with a fait acomplii - we'll see.
However, the government has rejected the possibility of talks inspiring thousands of demonstrators to protest outside Hadi's residence demanding a transitional council and calling for a million-man march to keep Salih in Saudi Arabia. Violent clashes continue throughout the country, leading some observers to believe that a civil war has already begun.
In the almost 3 months since the protests began in Syria, President Bashar Asad has looked weak and ineffective. He still remains in power but the cost of power has been rising. He has lost the special relationships he was enjoying with France and Turkey and there are growing calls for international condemnation of the violent response by the Syrian state against the protesters. The condemnation stops short of coordinated international action since Russia has stated that it will not support intervention against Syria in the UN Security Council, citing the lack of results in the intervention in Libya.
In the latest clashes at Jisr al-Shughur near the Turkish border, the government has claimed that 120 officers were killed when armed men ambushed government forces. Western media are reporting these numbers with scepticism, even as the government vows retaliation for the deaths. According to Joshua Landis of Syrian comment:
None of the reporters I spoke to today believe Syrian reports of a massacre. The LA Times puts the word in quotation marks. Other reporters stated to me that the government has offered neither proof nor pictures of killings in Jisr al-Shaghour. Opposition leaders argue that the claim is being manufactured by the government in order to justify escalating security measures. Some claim that security forces are killing military deserters.
Residents are fleeing the town in anticipation of the government attacks.
Oppostion groups met earlier in Antalya, Turkey to set up a transition to a democratic process in Syria. They called for the immediate resignation of President Assad, respect for the diversity of Syria's people and the importance of the territorial integrity of the state.
The main cities of Damascus and Aleppo remain quiet but the situation there is still
tense. Each Friday, more protesters emerge despite the government's crackdown:
With the economic and human cost of the protests mounting, activists say it is only a matter of time before Damascenes join the protest movement in earnest.
But even large-scale protests in the capital might not be enough to topple Mr Assad’s regime.
“There will be pressures, but they don’t respond to pressures,” says one analyst in the capital. “They (the regime hardliners) are prepared to do anything it takes to hold on to power – anything
It appears that Syria may also be slipping into civil war in a situation where the government cannot contain the protests nor the protesters bring about the fall of the regime.
Despite a ban on protests in Morocco, thousands of protesters gathered on Sunday in Rabat and Casablanca to protest the violent death of Khaled al-Amari on Thursday by government forces.
The protesters are part of what has been termed the February 20 Movement, led largely by young people demanding pro-democracy reforms and an end to government corruption and repression - as well as an end to poverty and inequality. Launched on February 20 this year, the protests have swelled in conjunction with the so-called "Arab Spring" protests and revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Gatherings continue regularly, culminating weekly in coordinated demonstrations throughout the country.
Police violence has been accompanied by a crackdown on journalists. Last month, Al Jazeera was forced by the Moroccan government to cease broadcast operations in Rabat, with a ban on all land and satellite transmitters. Furthermore, Rachid Nini, editor of Morocco's el-Massa newspaper, who has been outspoken against government corruption, was jailed for writing articles critical of Morocco's security services and counter-terrorism law. Amnesty International has condemned the jailing as "a severe attack on freedom of expression". Last Wednesday, dozens of his supporters gathered in downtown Rabat to demand that the government release him.
This comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia's invitation to Morocco to join what has been termed the "club of kings", the Gulf Cooperation Council, intended to protect the interests of monarchs against the "Arab Spring" uprisings throughout the region. While Morocco is a constitutional monarchy on paper, in practice, power is consolidated in the hands of the king, who can nominate and dismiss the prime minister and cabinet, dissolve parliament, and levy emergency powers.
The estimated 60,000 protesters in Casablanca and 10,000 protesters in Rabat were left to protest peacefully by police, most liklely in an effort to prevent increasing support for the protesters ahead of the July 1 referendum on constitutional change. Protesters are planning further demonstrations ahead of the vote.
Updating to add a link to the latest diary in the Witnessing Revolution series for those interested in continuing coverage of events in the region.