Mideast Reports caught up with Yaser Tabbara for a two-part segment. Mr. Tabbara grew up in Damascus and is now a lawyer at Zarzour, Khalil, & Tabbara LLC. In law school he was research assistant to Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, International Law Scholar and Noble Peace Prize Nominee. Mr. Tabbara is a prominent member in the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). To follow his latest activities including media appearances and publications, visit his blog. For a full bio click here.
The protests today were decidedly stronger than in past Fridays for a couple reasons. First, the regime’s show of violence over the past week, which left nearly 200 dead and the southern city of Dara’a under siege, could not keep people in their homes. People went to the streets in towns across the country, including in Dara’a and the neighborhood of Midan, at the heart of Damascus (VIDEO); two very symbolic locations. The physiological fear barrier has been severely weakened, if not crumbled.
Second, the reaction of security forces was slightly less violent this week, although Aljazeera is reporting up to 50 dead. Once again, much of the violence was in Dara’a, where Maher Assad’s notorious fourth division is leading the charge. The state TV netwrok, SANA is reporting that 4 soldiers are among the dead, having been killed by an “armed terrorist group” that attacked a military post. Note that information coming out of Syria is difficult, if not impossible, to independently verified.
Protests in Yemen continued and Saleh’s resignation agreement with the GCC appears to be in jeopardy. The protestors seems to be split between those who back the deal that Saleh made with the GCC, and those that don’t. However, this is not really a schism between the demonstrators them selves (although that exists to a certain extent) but rather a political one.
The JMP (see Who’s Who Yemen Guide), as of now, supports the current plan to transition Saleh from power, but the demonstrators do not, with good reason, trust Saleh and also refuse to agree to the condition of immunity.
In conversation with Tik Root, one correspondent on the ground in Yemen, sheds a grim light on these complex events. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because some information was obtained in off the record discussions.
TIK: Was a bit preoccupied with Syria today. What’s going on in Yemen?
COR: pretty calm today about the same numbers as most fridays
COR: no, no violence today
TIK: That’s good. Does that mean that Saleh is headed toward actually accepting this agreement?
COR: he has no intention of signing it. something will happen between now and then.
TIK: as in? He’ll crack down?
COR: there are lots of things he can do, he’s given himself a few outsand. The JMP could not accept it last minute. If there is more violence like last wendesday the JMP won’t sign it.
TIK: I hear there is a split between the JMP and the opposition on the ground. If the JMP accept, does that mean protesters won’t stop?
COR: a split, that’s an understatement fundamental disconnect maybe. Yeah they’ll still be in the streets no matter what happens
TIK: So, although Saleh has left him self conceivable “outs”, only stepping down will stop protests? I should first ask, what is the ratio of pro vs anti Saleh demonstrators?
COR: not just stepping down they want him tried and most of the pro saleh guys are paid off
TIK: WIll the protestors need international cooperation to get him tried? Or is there a domestic mechanism?
COR: hey’d have to storm the palace and arrest him
TIK: Do you see that happening anytime soon? What would it take?
COR: a civil war or an atrocity
TIK: I guess the question then, is when? I don’t really expect you have to have an answer, but any thoughts on timing or factors?
COR: well if something doesn’t happen by ramadan the economy is going to collapse
TIK: What’s the situation with the tribes?
COR: tribes are mostly united against saleh
TIK: Who’s still with Saleh?
COR: hard to say, a few tribes in marib that’s about all I know of
TIK: the army?
COR: about 75% to 25% in favor of protesters
Written by Tik Root a student at Middlebury College.