Weekly Roundup 5/21

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Obama Speech:
- On Thursday, President Obama gave a 45-minute speech on America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, given the change that has swept the region. Mideast Reports posted video and analysis of the speech on the blog.

- You can also find our expectations from before the speech and video of Obama’s last major Middle East policy speech, which was made in Cairo in 2009.

Syria:
- Turkey, one of Syria’s closest allies, took a strong stance against Assad, calling on him to take ‘immediate democratic steps.’

- The Army reportedly shot at and killed Syrians fleeing to Lebanon in the town of Talkalakh. Violence there has continued throughout the week, despite reports that troops have started to withdraw.

- On May 15 clashes broke out on the Syrian-Israeli border, which has been largely peaceful for over 40 years. Israeli soldiers are said to have killed 7 Syrians who broke through the border fence to protest the founding of Israel (see Israel-Palestine section). To many, the demonstrations were also seen as an attempt by the Assad regime to distract attention from violence in Syria.

- As citizens finally started to move around the southern city of Deraa, they found mass graves containing up to 40 bodies. Video and eye witness accounts made it out of the country.

- Several prominent dissidents were freed on bail, but mass arrests and torture continue to be the norm.

- Dorothy Paraz, the Al-Jazeera journalist detained in Syria and Iran was released, and gave an account of her three days in a Syrian prison.

- Bashar al-Assad conceded that the government has made mistakes during this uprising, but that they have ‘now “overcome the crisis” and it was coming to an end’

- In a shift of tactics (due to a large number of besieged citizens), the regime called for a general strike, but it went largely ignored. There is another one scheduled for May 22nd.

- On Wednesday, a day before his sweeping policy speech, President Obama announced new sanctions against Bashar al-Assad and six of his aids.

- In his speech President Obama’s told Assad that he needs to either lead a democratic transition, or “get out”.

- Syria said that Obama’s speech, ‘demonstrated the fact of the U.S. intervention in the region’s internal affairs, including Syria, “in a way that runs counter to the U.N. legitimacy.”’

- Despite the regime’s statements that the uprising was over, and its use of deadly force, thousands came out again on Friday calling for freedom and the departure of Assad. At least 26 have been killed, with many more injured and/or arrested. It is notable that demonstrations occurred in a wide variety of cities, ranging from the capital Damascus to Kurdish cities in the northeast.

Yemen:
- The Atlantic posted some great footage, including the picture in this post, of protests in Sana’a last week under the title “What Four Miles of Yemeni Protesters Looks and Sounds Like.” 35 people were reported killed on that Friday.

- Power outages, gas shortages, and other disruptions continue to plague much, if not all, of the country.

- There were reports earlier in the week that Saleh, the opposition and the GCC were trying to revive and renegotiate a deal that would lead to Saleh stepping down. .

- On Friday President Saleh called for early elections in order to ‘avoid bloodshed.’ This seems to put yet another nail in the coffin of the GCC brokered deal mentioned above.

- Here are a few other really interesting articles about Yemen:
1. Comprehensive Timeline of the revolution since April 5th.
2. Op-ed in the New York Times, “In Yemen, Hardly a Revolution.”
3. The Story of Nabil Ali Mohamed Abdo who was kidnapped, tortured and left unconscious in the street.

Israel-Palestine:
- May 15th marked the 63rd anniversary of the founding of Israel. In Arabic this is called the ‘Nakba’, meaning the ‘day of catastrophe’. Demonstrations against the occupation broke out on multiple Israeli borders with some turning into deadly clashes.

- Israel has stepped up security on its borders fearing that new demonstrations might erupt.

- In his speech Obama reiterated American unwavering support of Israeli security, but also said that a two-state solution based on ’67 borders should be the starting point for a peace deal. This set the stage for an inevitably tense meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday.

- Obama and Netanyahu met for 90 minutes in the oval office, and continued talks in various other venues throughout the day. In remarks after the speech, both leaders made clear that there were “differences between friends.”

Libya:
- Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril and other members of the Transitional National Council (TNC), traveled to Washington last week to make their case to the administration.

- It appears that Shakri Ghanem, the Libyan oil minister, has defected to Tunis. This would make it the highest-level defection since the foreign minister left for London.

- NATO hit three Libyan ports, in its broadest attack yet on Gaddfi’s naval force.

- Four journalists were released and crossed the border into Tunisia. They had been detained since April 5.

- NATO’s campaign has intensified and the US has been providing food and supplies to the rebels. Obama thinks that Gaddafi’s departure is inevitable.

- There was an interesting article on CNN about whether Obama is about to break the 1973 War Powers Act by continuing the efforts in Libya long than 60 days without congressional approval.

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This entry was posted in Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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