Yemen: The Return of Ali Abdullah Saleh

In his first speech since his return from Saudi Arabia, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, claimed he was committed to transferring power in early elections.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemeni President

The president’s return, and reaasumption of his presidential powers, has caught many unawares, as it has effectively reasserted anti-government pressures onto Saleh solely.   His medical absence had insulated him from political pressure.  Nonetheless, Saleh has returned which may demonstrate that Saleh has grown concerned with the escalation of brutality being committed by both side, most notably being his eldest son Ahmed who fired upon unarmed demonstrators.  Many suggest that Saleh’s return is part of his strategy for prolonging the ineffectual dialogues with the political opposition, being brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).  Before his departure, Saleh was infamous for delaying and obfuscating negotiations by insisting on unacceptable preconditions.

The Yemeni president has called for early elections, but many within the opposition and Saleh’s own office feel that the calls are only demonstrations of his attempt to use rhetoric as a form of detente, with no intention of implementation.  Evidently, the latest peace formula is unlikely to appease protesters who want nothing less than his immediate departure.

“The opposition parties abused and misused the vigils by youth in order to seize power, and some of their elements conducted subversive actions to sabotage the movement of the youth.” – Abubakr A. Al-Qirbi, Yemen Foreign Minister

The UN has perceived the call by Saleh for peaceful dialogue as the right course for the reform of Yemen.  After Yemen’s Foreign Minister delivered a speech to the General Assembly, the UN stated that change in Yemen must follow constitutional process.  Divisions in Yemen will only be overcome by a return to the legality of the constitution and fixing its shortcomings.  A smooth transition of power would allow reconciliation, reform and reconstruction without violating democratic principles.  Nonetheless, unbridled population growth, prevalence of poverty, desertification and paucity of oil have combined to create an in environment in which thousands of university graduates have found it impossible to find employment.  Such dissent and disenchantment has allowed opposition parties to manipulate the youth in order to seize power and spark demonstration, which began in January/February.

Despite calls for peaceful means towards reform, government forces have killed hundreds since the on-start of the revolts, in attempt to stamp out resistance.  At least 150 people, mostly protesters, renegade soldiers and tribesmen, have been killed over the past week as loyalist forces use excessive forces.  The loyalist have rained mortar shells on protestors and fired on crowds with anti-aircraft guns.  Snipers have been stations on rooftops to pick off protesters on the streets below.  Needless to say, rumors of excessive force are clearly true.

Resembling attrition, killing as many as possible until surrender, the tactics of the government forces have had the opposite effect.  Facing such brutal onslaught, the anti-government forces have intensified their efforts.  Today, anti-government tribesmen overran an army base holding an elite unit of Republican Guard, north of Yemen’s capital.  The tribesmen captured 30 soldiers and dealt a blow to the prestige of the power of the Republican Guards.  Furthermore, a military spokesman said that a Sukhoi SU-33 military plane was shotdown by anti-aircraft guns near Arhab, where armed tribesmen have been locked in combat with elite Republican Guards.

In retrospect, violence will only continue as long as Saleh refused to sign a bill to transfer power.  However, transferring power will only vindicate the practicality of force, as well as put another scapegoat in power to which the tribesmen will target.  As the UN has stated, the GCC will have to mediate a democratic means for a peaceful end to conflict, a reform to the constitution to appease rebels, as well as establish a new leader, favored by the masses.

EU: The European Stability Mechanism and Growing Political Instability

Euro-zone officials are working to magnify the magnitude of the region’s rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), to set aside 440 billion euro in assets that could be used as collateral to borrow from the European Central Bank (ECB), making more money available to stop the crisis from spreading.

Europe has not fully healed from the 2007 financial crisis nor has it fully addressed issues in its banking system, which all have been compounded by the Greek debt crisis.  The EFSF, which has yet to  be fully ratified, was initially used as a TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Package) to buy assets, then used to recapitalize banks and it was used to pay TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility).  Now, the finance ministers within the Council are negotiating how to leverage the money out of the EFSF in a more innovative and efficient way, to shield bigger economies such as Italy and Spain.  The EFSF is due to expire in mid 2013, to be replaced by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a permanent crisis resolution mechanism, to mobilize funding and provide financial assistance, under strict conditionality, to Euro-area Member States.

German Chancellor Merkel and her conservative coalition has urged the EU to implement the ESM a year earlier, in order to solidify a more resolute mechanism for the debt crisis; rather than continuing intergovernmental funding of relief packages, which have been funded by Germany, for the most part.  The ESM will use an appropriate funding strategy so as to ensure access to broad funding sources and enable it to extend financial assistance packages to Member States under all market conditions.

“What we can’t do is destroy the confidence of all investors mid-course and get a situation where they say that if we’ve done it for Greece, we will also do it for Spain, for Belgium, or any other country.  Then not a single person would put their money in Europe anymore.” – Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

Despite the focus on the fiscal crisis in Germany and Italy, the EU has also come to face growing political instability within its Member States, which can delay or even scrap support for relief packages, creating a conundrum of crises.  Belgium, home to the headquarters of the EU, has been left without an official government for close to 500 days, due to the intractable divisions between Belgium’s Dutch and French-speaking camps.  Moreover, last week Tuesday, the left-leaning government of Slovakia was usurped by a vote of confidence and is now also under the supervision of a caretaker regime.

Furthermore, Europe’s three largest countries have experienced internal dissent, from Euroskeptic related groups, because of their high stakes in the EU.  Firstly, France is nearing elections and President Sarkozy has been verbally attacked by opposition and coalition partners, because of his call for French investment in Greece.  Secondly, Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron has been targeted by Tory PMs, calling for a referendum concerning Britain’s ties to the EU.  Lastly, Merkel’s leading Christian Democrat party has faced growing opposition to her handling of the debt crisis from her coalition partners – the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the economically liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

“Our European neighbors can rest assured that there are two decidedly pro-European opposition parties who distinguish themselves from the increasingly anti-European CSU and FDP, which is also on the way to becoming Euroskeptics.” – Juergen Trittin, leading Green politician

The Greens have grown from being junior partners in Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD-led government from 1985-2005 and the smallest group in parliament in the 2009 elections, to becoming a force to be reckoned with in regional and national politics.  Polls suggest the Green party would win about 20% if national elections were held now.   This would put them as the 3rd largest, behind the conservatives and the SPD, with enough for a winning “Red-Green” coalition.  According to Trittin, the Greens are more in line with the rest of the European Union on proposals such as common Euro-zone bonds than Merkel.  The Greens had proposed a tax on financial transaction long before Merkel pushed for it and they urged her in August to bring forward the permanent successor to the EFSF, the ESM, instead of waiting until 2013, which she has just now announced as another proposal for the EU’s consideration.

“In the middle of a huge crisis, if the biggest state in the Euro-zone has a minority government which relied on the goodwill of opposition parties, it is no longer in condition to lead through the crisis.” – Juergen Trittin, leading Green politician

Private economists and Brussels think-tanks expect a Greek debt default within months or sooner, despite a capital injection for European banks and leveraging up of the EFSF.  Nevertheless, planning continues on the basis that Greece’s debt burden, which is close to 160% of GDP, can be sustained as long as the government fully implements austerity measures demanded by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Internal Monetary Fund.  So saying, bus and metro workers are planning to strike and tax collectors themselves plan on beginning a 48-hour stoppage in protests against the bill to approve an unpopular property tax.  The IMF and EU both have criticized Athens’ failure to reduce the size of its bloated public sector because it has made little progress on a pledge to cut the 730,000 public workforce by a 1/5, eliminate dozens of inefficient state entities and sell off loss-making state firms.  The Athens’ government has failed to end rampant tax evasion, while the 3rd year of economic contraction has undermined budget revenues and put Greece off-track for its goal of cutting the budget deficit to 7.6% of annual output this year.  Although unhappy with imposing yet more austerity cuts on voters hit by tax hikes and spending cuts over the past 18 months, the Socialist party lawmakers are expected to toe the line to prevent a Greek default that would shake global markets and possibly engulf other debt-laden Euro-zone states.

“These are very critical days and weeks ahead, reminiscent very much of the touch-and-go situation we were back in 2008.  The key difference this time around is that countries and not companies that are in danger of going bust.” – Edward Meir, Senior commodities analyst at brokers MF Global

In retrospect, bank shares rallied on hopes of Euro-zone debt deal.  French and German bank shares were up at 10% at one stage in Monday.  So saying, the EU is faced with political and fiscal uncertainty in which conflicting media reports have played games with the stock market, with chronic selling and investing throughout the week.  Under these circumstances, transparency has added to the problems of the EU and will make every move and policy more consequential for the future of the EU.

Israel: Facing a “Regional Tsunami”

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to address the UN General Assembly today, the emerging threats to Israel from the changes in the Middle East illustrate the “tsunami” of change that has led to Israel’s isolation.

The neighborhood of the Middle East has changed since last year’s global gathering and now Israel faces multiple challenges as a consequence of the unfinished democratic revolution that has become known as the “Arab Spring”.  For instance, once of Israel’s closest partners in the Arab world, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is near death and on trial.  To make matters worse, the military council that replaced Mubarak has distanced itself from Israel which has allowed for popular opposition against the peace treaty between the two countries.  The military council is also preparing for popular elections, which has allowed for the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood, a strong anti-Israel group, which is illustrated by general antipathy toward Israel.  According to a poll this year carried out by the Pew Trust, 54% to 6% want the peace treaty between the two countries to be annulled.

Though never close allies with Syria, the problems facing Bashar al-Assad has resulted in fears about what might follow should the unrest eventually unseat him.  Instability in Syria would inevitable spill into neighboring Lebanon, where Hezbollah (Shia Muslim militant group) has a rather significant number of missiles aimed at Israel.

“Knowing the Prime Minister’s personality and knowing the importance of this issues for Turkey, I do not see how Turkey can accept anything short of an apology.”– Asli Aydintasbas, Turkish Political Columnist

Moreover, the once close political and military relationship with Turkey is in tatters.  The “culprit” behind the death of the relationship was Israel.  On the 31st of May 2010, a military operation of Israel was carried out by military commandos against six ships of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”.  Among the six ships was the MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish relief ship, which was boarded and in a UN report, many of the crew were members of a “separate hardcore group” who were armed with iron bars and knives.  The Israeli commandos were “forced” to use military action, resulting in the death of 9 activists.  Tensions have steadily increased over Israel’s refusal to meet Turkey’s demands for an apology and compensation to the families of the dead.  Clearly, the events of the “Arab Spring” have left Israel surrounded by instability and its few allies are not heeding its call for aid.

Furthermore, the news circulating around Israel only grows worse for its international relations, as the controversial issue of Palestinian statehood has come to a head in a recent push for UN recognition of a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders. According to Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense Minister, the Palestinian plan for recognition is an attempt to push Israel into the same corner that apartheid South Africa once occupied.  With the majority of the international community lending its support for the bid, the planned pressure on Israel seems to be working.  Israel will be faced with a “tsunami” of pressure and criticism from both the international and domestic front.  For instance, Israel’s relations with Jordan, where nearly half the population is Palestinian, have also deteriorated.  This past Wednesday, King Abdullah of Jordan told the UN General Assembly that public frustration was at its peak, illustrating the growing animosity towards Israel.  The frustration among Jordinian is focused on Israel’s unwillingness to confront the problem and effectively “sticking their heads in the sand”.  The political-military peace between Jordan and Israel is seen as a necessity for many Israelis, most notable being Amos Gilad, the director of policy and political-military affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry.  The peace gives Israel strategic depth and helps ease the tension from Israeli shoulders in the region.  Evidently, the détente of Israel with the entire Middle East is tense at best, essentially nonexistent in many places, exemplifying past years of military conflict and political hatred between Israel and all its neighbors.

“Right now, the only strategy is no strategy…The Israeli answer will be no: no to the Security Council, no to the General Assembly, and no to any resolution that will include any kind of statement that will include Palestinian statehood.” – Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent of the left-leaning Haaratz

Facing these negative and inconceivable developments internationally, the domestic pressure has also increased in Israel as critics of Netanyahu have attacked the Prime Minister’s lack of urgency and dynamism.  Despite the pressures, socially, Israel is experiencing some of its best living standards ever before but with such circumstances surrounding the state, the pressure will soon breach into the lives of all Israelis.

“Those who govern the country take step every day towards building new barriers to peace.  We don’t have a problem with the people of Israel.  The source of the current tension is solely the Israeli government.” – Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey

With the bid for Palestinian statehood being pushed upon the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, despite fervent opposition from Israel and the US, its main ally; the future for Israeli-Palestinian relations will determine much of the future between Israel and the international community.  It is unclear when then the Security Council will take up the Palestinian request, which the White House has pledged to veto already.  British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the US position, despite his support for a two-state solution, Cameron has stated the UN resolution cannot substitute the political will, from negotiation between Israel-Palestine, necessary to bring peace.  While a veto by the US in the Security Council would block any effort to gain full UN membership, a “yes” vote in the General Assembly would raise Palestine to the status of permanent observer “state”, the same status the Vatican currently holds.

“This has been a smart political move.  What they are doing is they are effectively bringing an end to an US monopoly on peacemaking.  They are internationalizing it.” – Salman Shaikh, director of the Brooking Doha Center and fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

UN: President Ahmadinejad’s Statement

On the even of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the UN General Assembly today, the President of Iran declared his country to be a new model for life to the world.

Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the UN in New York comes two days after the two US hikers, held in an Iranian prison for more than 2 years, were released.  The two hikers had supposedly crossed the Iraqi-Iranian border unknowingly and were arrested on the suspicion of being American spies.  The men’s 2 year ordeal had exacerbated tensions between the US and Iran.  The release was supposed to ease relations on the even of the President’s speech , but the content of Ahmadinejad’s speech has done much the opposite, serving to aggravate Western powers and demonstrate Ahmadinejad’s radical stance, as well as his arrogance.

Today, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a stinging attack at members of the UN, promoting walkouts by the US and various European delegations, among those being the UK and France.  In a verbal assault on the US, Ahmadinejad referred to the “mysterious” September 11th attacks as a pretext for America’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, serving as an illustration of America’s greed.  Many believe that Ahmadinejad was attempting to strengthen his political position in Iran, meanwhile reassuring the international community of his extremism.  Ahmadinejad had faced public humiliation during the trial of the 2 American hikers because Iranian judicial authorities refused to heed his demands.  The Iranian judicial authorities initially failed to carry out Ahmadinejad’s directive to release the men and admonished the President in public, saying that it was them who decided and not him if and when the men would be freed.  Despite the humiliation, the Iranian President got his way just days before his appearance at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Much of his speech was dedicated to asking rhetorical questions about who was responsible for slavery, colonialism and who used the atomic bomb against defenseless people.  The Iranian leader insisted that the world was in need to change, stating that Marxism, liberalism, humanism and the West could not solve man’s problems.  According to Ahmadinejad, because of Iran’s culture and “rich civilization”, it was the only nation that could offer a new model for life to the world.

“By using their imperialistic media network, which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanction and military actions.” – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President

In other parts of Ahmadinejad’s speech, he criticized European countries for paying fines to the “Zionists” because of the appalling events of Hitler’ ethnic cleansing through Eastern and Western Europe.  In continuation, the President stated that if European countries were to continue paying fines to people responsible for the mass murder and terror against Palestinian, they should also pay reparations for slavery.  The reference came as an attack for past British colonialism of what is now Iran.

Furthermore, as Iranian-Anglo relation have always been strained at best, Ahmadinejad targeted the US most often throughout the address.  He stated that the US was aimed at high-jacking the “Arab Spring” uprisings.  The statement mimics similar animosity by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamnei.  Both Iranian leaders perceived US and Western involvement in the Arabic world as hypocritical.  The Western powers were responsible for the authoritative and corrupt leaders in the first place and were now only aiding the demonstrations for the opportunity of viable resources.  The statement followed reports affirming that much of Qaddafi’s arms has been supplied by Western power, most specifically Germany (though China held much responsibility as well).

“Muslim nations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen or other countries need vigilance today. They should not allow enemies confiscate the victories they’ve achieved.  They should not forget that those who have come to the scene in Libya (US and NATO) today and consider themselves the owners of the uprising are the same people who used to sit and drink with those who once suppressed the Libyan nation.” – Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran’s Supreme Leader

In retrospect, with the US and the UN condescending Iranian nuclear buildup, as well as implementing sanction on the country for their persistent flaunting of nuclear research and military, the Iranian statement has only fueled international resentment of Iran’s political figures.

EU: Italy’s Downgrade and the Finance Ministers’ Meeting

The credit rating agency of Standard and Poor’s has added to the negative news coming out of the Euro-zone by downgrading Italy, the Euro-zone’s 3rd largest economy, to A/A-.

“We believe the reduced pace of Italy’s economic activity to date will make the government’s revised fiscal targets difficult to achieve.” – Standard and Poor’s credit rating agency

Judging that Italy is less creditworthy than Slovakia and on par with Malta, S&P’s cut has increased the strain for reform and action in the Euro-zone.  Following an inconclusive meeting of European finance ministers in Poland last Friday, the news has illustrated the continuing difficulty of achieving quick action from countries bound by a single currency but divided by domestic policies.  The finance ministers’ meeting on Friday did include the unprecedented attendance of US Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Geithner.  Geithner warned the assembly that Europe needed to unite and show collective will in trying to resolve the debt crisis.  Despite the US’ lack of a strong position to criticize any country’s handling of an economic crisis, Geithner recommended that the 17 members of the Euro-zone significantly expand the capacity of their joint bailout fund, the EFSF.

“I found it peculiar that even though the Americans have significantly worse fundamental data than the Euro-zone, that they tell us what we should do, and when we make a suggestion…that they say no straight away.” – Maria Fekter, Austrian Finance Minister

There is much popular sentiment in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland to use financial transaction tax to increase the EFSF; rather than using taxpayer money, advocated by the US.  The EU, as a supranational entity expanded by Charles de Gaulle to combat trans-Atlantic ties in Europe, has criticized the recommendation by Geithner.  The European countries are founded on a much more socialist liberalism than that of the US and they aim at removing as much fiscal pressure as possible from the people.  Meanwhile, the US taxes its lower and middle class heavily in times of need.  Clearly, the disparity between the two continents did not provide subtle ground for negotiation or any desire to adhere to the warning from one another.

Nevertheless, the ministers remain unable to agree among themselves on some of the details concerning a second bailout package for Greece, a country that is desperately awaiting the release of about $11 billion in loans, which will only allow the government to function until mid-October.  Yet, this bailout package, which was supposed to be released by late-September, has been delayed until the beginning of October because of Member State dissent.   Country’s like Finland have raised concerns over the package and have insisted on collecting collateral from Greece on its share of any emergency loans, which could delay, or even scarp, approval for the bailout.

Furthermore, the latest signs of stress on the banking system has come from the Bank of China, which has stopped foreign exchange forwards and swaps rating with the top 3 French banks and Switzerland’s UBS.  So saying, the trust in the French banking sector is crumbling, as seen in Germany’s industrial conglomerate Siemens withdrawing 500 million Euros from France and depositing the funds into the European Central Bank.  Of all European banks, French lenders have some of the highest exposure to Greek sovereign debt.  BNP PAribas and Credit Agricole also have large holding of Italian sovereign debt.

“Orderly or not, we have no idea what the effect of a default would be on other countries, especially Italy.  If there is just a 5% chance that this will affect Italy, then you don’t want to do it.” -Peter Bofinger, German Finance Ministry adviser

Besides the growing concerns in Italy and France, the source of the fiscal plague, Greece, remains the key factor to the Euro-zone.  Total Greek public debt is about 370 billion Euros, around $500 billion.  By comparison, when Argentine defaulted in 2001, its debt was only $83 billion.  Russia defaulted in 1998 and its debt was only $79 billion.  While these countries have defaulted on their debt, they did not cause systemic contagion, but analysts weighing the numbers on Greece note that its debt is far higher, so the ripple effects could be more serious.  A Greek finance ministry official said that Athens was close to a deal with European and IMF inspectors on extra austerity measures to secure the release of an 8 billion Euro loan, which will be vital to pay state salaries and pensions next month.  Essentially, Greece is scrambling to ensure a semi-functional government, demonstrating the ledge of anarchy that could easily spill over Greece.

Despite the slipper slope of anarchic news being reported across international media, European stocks have advanced on news from Greece and its talk with the IMF and EU.  SAP AG gained 2.1%, EON AG and RWE AG both climbed more than 3%, Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 1.3% and the DAX has gone up 1.68%.

“The S&P move on Italy was expected and European shared have been under priced versus US stocks.   Investors may be beginning to pick up equities ahead of a possible catch-up with S&P 500.” – Henrik Henriksen, chief investment strategist at PFA Pension A/S

Libya: Export Democracy?

As Libya’s interim government announces that rebel forces have made advances on Sabha, one of the last Qaddafi strongholds, questions must be raised concerning the future for foreign involvement in Libya.

In International Affairs, the concept behind Selectorate Theory helps illustrate the problems behind Democracies trying to implement a government that reflects their own values.  Selectorate Theory explains that because the winning coalition of a Democracy is a large proportion of the population, the head of state will be forced to appease the winning coalition by reflecting their values through his actions.  Therefore, if the Democracy were to be involved in a civil war, such as Libya’s, the Democracy would try to implement a transitional government that reflects the foreign power and the winning coalition.  Under these circumstances, the Democracy will be focused on profit and its own people, not the people of the usurped country.  So saying, once a “puppet” Democracy has been implemented by the foreign powers, the people of the usurped country will realize that their new government does not represent them or their values.  For these reasons, dissent and anti-west sentiment will grow within the usurped country and these circumstances will provide fertile ground for dictators and the return to civil strife.  With the exception of Japan after 1945, no country has had Democracy implemented upon it by an outside power and had that “puppet” Democracy been successful.

In conjunction, the case in Libya serves to bring about the question of exporting Democracy. The country has undergone, and continues to do so, a civil war which has resulted in a power vacuum after the evacuation of Qaddafi and his family.  With countries such as France and Britain mainly responsible for foreign aid, both militarily and financially, these two powerful democracies have special interested in Libya and they will be looking for “dividends” for their efforts.  France and Britain were the first governments to launch military operations after the United Nations Security Council passed the resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.  For these reasons, France and Britain will expect to gain greater influence over the new governing system.  So, following the reasoning of Selectorate Theory, Britain and France will seek to profit from their involvement in Libya and this profit must reflect the values of their people, the winning coalition.  As an oil-rich country, Libya has always attracted the attention of the European powers.  President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron will ensure that such a prize is distributed to them, hence their trip to Tripoli this past week.

With France and Britain struggling under fiscal instability, oil and its availability will be instrumental for both countries.  Both major European powers will have to ensure that the government to be constructed in Libya, by a supposed election hosted by the National Transitional Council, will allow for Western presence, special treatment, or all out ownership of the oil fields (or some partition of those fields).  Therefore, Britain and France will have to become much more involved in Libya to secure these assets.  Admittedly, the countries may not have to go so far as to enforce a European Democracy to appease the winning coalition of their countries, but they will have to ensure their access to the oil.

“These groups do not recognize an authority or any control.  These are areas which suffered a lot during the last few months of the regime, and now they think that whatever they do is justified.” – Anonymous Commander in Tripoli

Furthermore, for such a government to successfully exist and last into the future, it will also have to reflect the values of its own people.  Sadly, this is not straight forward for Libya, as dissent has already begun to emerge among the rebels.  Less than a month after the rebels captured Tripoli, revolutionary militia groups have begun sweeping up any weapons they can find.  Some of these groups barely recognize the authority of the new civilian government and rivalries are already surfacing.  Tensions have emerged between the council and other bodies in the new Libya, including militias, Islamist and regional representatives.  These disparate factions have various facets that range from pro-west or anti-west, secular or anti-secular.  To bind these various bodies under one umbrella government will provide a daunting challenge and will also play an important role in the future of the foreign powers.  Policies concerning future dealings with Western forces can be the spark to rip apart the rebel faction.  Nevertheless, the decisions to be made by the NTC and NTC leader Kibril will determine the future of Libya and their involvement in Western affairs.

Yemen: UN and GCC Campaign

For months, thousands of demonstrators have been waging a campaign to usurp the long-standing regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Envoys from the United Nations and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ave arrived in Yemen on Monday, following the recent spike in violence on Sunday in which 26 people were killed and hundreds injured.  Sunday saw the worst violence in the country since March, but protest leaders have issued rallying cries urging more demonstrations on Monday.  The officials from the UN and GCC have flown to Sanaa, Yemen to hopefully help organize the peaceful transfer of power from President Saleh to Vice President Abd Rabo Mansou Hadi.  The arrangement was initially indicated to be accepted by Saleh but recent events have led ot his refusal to sign, stating that he will return and finish his term.

President Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from a June bombing on his palace.  With thousands of protesters conducting a 7-month sit-in to call for his resignation, many suggest that his removal from Yemen has actually ensured his Presidency and has also led to the impasse of the demonstrations.  Without the injuries suffered from the bombing, Saleh would not have been evacuated to Saudi Arabia, miles away from the threat of protesters and further attacks.  So saying, without such pressure and miles away from any threat, there seems to be no reason for Saleh to resign or implement any reforms to appease demonstrators.

“Protestors were interecepted on Zubairy Street and in Al Qa’a district where the forces show no mercy.” – Saleem Munasar, anti-Saleh demonstrator

As in Libya, where Qaddafi had essentially promised to commit a Holocaust of his own people, the events of Yemen have demonstrated the ruthless hunt by security forces, as well as the human rights violations being committed.  Many witnesses have said that they have seen .50-caliber machine guns being used against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators.  The opposition National Council has condemned the attacks and are calling on the international community to take action against Saleh’s regime.  With the only evidence of foreign involvement being limited to Libya, where rebels are still being pushed back by loyalist forces in some locales, the Yemenis protests will be on their own for the foreseeable future.

“This revolution is peaceful, peaceful!  We are here for our beloved martyrs.  We will not back down!” – Demonstrators at Zubairy Street

Moreover, the UK-based charity organization known as Oxfam has warned that Yemen is at a breaking point and faces a food crisis.  Oxfam has warned that 7.5 million Yemenis, approximately 1/3 of the population, are going hungry.  The political stalemate of Yemen has left the government in paralysis, which has prompted a fuel crisis that has brought the economy on the verge of collapse.  With the demonstrations leading to chronic violence, the number of wounded and needy will increase, further damaging the already fragile country.

“We were just in the car on Hayel Street (near the fighting).  I stepped out to get some food and left my two boys in the car and I heard the older one scream.  The litle one was shot through the head.”– Father

In retrospect, Yemen is politically paralyzed as Saleh clings to power from a hospital bed in Saudi Arabia, allowing the turmoil to breed widespread violence and bloodshed.  Many agencies have suggested that the chaotic state of Yemen could strengthen the Yemen branch of al Qaeda and heighten the risk of militant attacks on US and Saudi targets abroad, which will be a high risk factor if the international community ever plans on taking direct action within the borders of Yemen.  Clearly, the situation in Yemen is igniting much conflict that could soon involve the international community.  With such chaos looming, the UN and GCC will not be able to implement a peaceful transition of power and the international community will be forced to decide whether further actions must be taken.