The Arab Spring country by country
Has not embraced radical change. The government has checked public rage through a combination of measured tolerance, food subsidies and pay raises, as well as small political concessions.
The government's clampdown on a largely peaceful uprising that began in February continues. In March, about 1,200 Saudi troops entered Bahrain followed by 500 police officers from the UAE under a Gulf Cooperation Council mandate. While there have been some conciliatory gestures, including the promise of a national dialogue and the lifting of a state of emergency, individuals linked to the protests - including key political figures and 48 medical professionals - are being tried in military courts. Hundreds still remain in detention and opposition supporters have been dismissed from their jobs. The opposition may have been weakened, but antipathy towards the regime deepens.
The revolution has left widespread uncertainty about the country four months after protesters toppled Hosni Mubarak. The economy has collapsed with tourists afraid to visit without a functioning police force and only one political party - a group that is the Muslim Brotherhood in all but name - has been officially registered. Dozens of other groups are vying for power, but few have risen to the level of professional politics. The revolutionary youth that led the uprising have yet to coalesce around a candidate or a political platform. Egypt has tentatively set parliamentary elections for September, but there are disagreements over this, too. A criminal trial of Mr Mubarak is set for August and Egyptians hope they can move on after a full reckoning of the workings of his secret police state.
Iran's regime hailed the Arab Spring, but attempted to portray it as an anti-Western "Islamic awakening" inspired by its 1979 revolution. If Iran did set a precedent, it came from the reformist "Green Movement", which was ruthlessly suppressed after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election triggered mass pro-democracy protests two years ago. Despite its bravado, the regime remains concerned these could erupt again, given the climate of change in the region. Meanwhile, the regime's hardline ruling elite has been torn by a highly damaging power struggle. Tehran is also concerned by the pressures facing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Iran's only Arab ally and its gateway to the Middle East.
Israel and Palestinian Territories
With popular revolts raising hopes for a more democratic Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians, on the other hand, seem more divided than ever, dimming hopes for a negotiated solution to their conflict. Addressing the US Congress last month, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave his "three no's" to issues that Palestinians demand for a final peace accord; no division of Jerusalem with a future Palestinian state; no right of return for Palestinian refugees; and no return to the boundaries that prevailed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Pressure by popular Palestinian demonstrations starting in March, meanwhile, has helped to convince the West Bank's Fatah faction and its rival in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, to end their four-year split. Their May 4 reconciliation accord has angered Israel, which, along with the US and EU, call Hamas a terrorist organisation. But it has enabled Fatah's chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, also the Palestinian Authority president, to present a firmer case for a UN endorsement of a Palestinian state in September.
Jordanians are waiting for promised reforms to take effect. Protests have been mostly peaceful, but one man died and dozens were injured on March 24 in Amman. Protesters want constitutional amendments that curb the king's powers, eliminate corruption and improve living standards. Protests continued even after a national dialogue committee was created. King Abdullah II offered concessions in a televised speech on June 11. He said he supports a proposed law that would establish a government that would provide substantial powers to elected officials. But no timetable has been set. Most of Jordan's 18 political parties remain weak and fragmented and do not enjoy wide popular support.
Kuwait's opposition has been holding sporadic rallies against the prime minister since 2009, but the size and regularity of the protests has increased in the past two months, sometimes attracting thousands. The emir said in a speech on Tuesday that the minister of interior has been told to adopt "all necessary measures" to protect the country's stability. Rulers have tried to appease citizens by sharing the emirate's oil wealth. In February, all citizens were given 1,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh13,360) and free food staples for more than a year.
Lebanon has been comparatively calm, but the Arab Spring has added to the country's atmosphere of uncertainty. After five months without a functioning government, Lebanon has a new cabinet, one that is seen as pro-Syrian. The Arab Spring revolt against Syria's Assad regime continues to rattle nerves in Lebanon - something that is even more relevant with Lebanon's new but fragile political arrangement. Meanwhile, secular activists continue to seek inspiration from the Arab Spring to re-energise efforts to bring down Lebanon's entrenched sectarian system of governance.
Anti-government protests in February spiralled into armed revolt, with rebels seizing Benghazi as Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi vowed to defeat them or die fighting. A rebel leadership council in Benghazi has won diplomatic recognition from several western and Arab governments, including the UAE. Rebel fighters control much of eastern Libya, the city of Misurata and the Nafusah mountains. Nato has enforced a UN-mandated no-fly zone since March and battered Col Qaddafi's military with air strikes. But finger-pointing over member states' level of commitment has strained the alliance. Col Qaddafi's regime has called for a ceasefire, although he himself has refused to step down.
Young Moroccans inspired by Tunisia's revolution launched Facebook-driven demonstrations in February condemning corruption and calling for limits to the power of King Mohamed VI. The king has promised a new constitution that would enhance the roles of political parties and parliament, and create an independent judiciary. That constitution is expected to be unveiled this month and put to a referendum in July. Authorities have tolerated some protests, while sending baton-wielding police to disperse others and branding protest leaders as leftist and Islamist extremists. Protest supporters are an unlikely coalition including left-leaning political parties, trade unionists, human rights groups, independent activists and a Sufi-inspired Islamist movement.
Like many rulers, Sultan Qaboos bin Said embarked on some reforms while using force against protesters. Protests began in December; the last one was May 6. Two protesters have been killed and more than 100 injured. More than 200 were arrested and 27 are now on trial. In March, the sultan promised cede some legislative powers to the partially elected Shura Council, an advisory body. The government responded by spending money for 30,000 more jobs and 40 per cent more scholarships. The government has sacked some long serving ministers. Many people would like to see cabinet ministers appointed from the elected members of the Shura Council but few are confident that it would ever happen.
Rumours of protests in Qatar spread in March when a Facebook page to support "The Freedom Revolution" attracted more than 30,000 followers, causing the British Foreign and Commonwealth office to warn Britons not to attend gatherings. As the date approached, the page switched to a pro-government stance for unknown reasons. It published hundreds of posts supporting the rulers and blaming foreign Arabs for conspiring to arrange the protest. The demonstration never materialised and there have been few other signs of discontent from Qataris, who have one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world.
There have been several petitions to the king signed by Saudis demanding political reforms to create a constitutional monarchy, and the country's first political party was established - and then suppressed. There have been regular peaceful demonstrations by Shiites in the Eastern Province and by Sunnis in Riyadh demanding the release of prisoners held without trials. The government has controlled most dissent because it has doled out $130 billion (Dh477bn) in financial benefits; state-supported clerics have reminded Saudis that demonstrations are not only illegal but also un-Islamic; and the Interior Ministry has arrested dissidents or people organising protests. Everyone is waiting to see what happens today when Saudi women say they will begin driving cars.
President Bashar al Assad was confident the Arab Spring would not arrive in Syria but when it did, his security forces moved to stamp it out. But escalating use of force has failed to prevent dissent from spreading nationwide. However, just as the regime has been unable to decisively crush dissidents with what the UN has called "horrific attacks", demonstrators have been unable to bring decisive pressure to bear on the regime. Both sides believe they will prevail. The government says the opposition are Islamic insurgents who will soon be destroyed by the army; dissidents say the regime's archaic dysfunctions and a flatlining economy have already sealed its fate. The result is bloody stalemate.
Tunisians are proud that the Arab Spring was born in their country but change is not coming fast enough. The interim administration has set October 23 for elections to an assembly that will draft a new constitution. The political scene is fragmented, with more than 90 parties. The Islamist Ennahda movement, banned under ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, appears to be the most organised. Secularists are worried that Islamists will take control. Nonetheless, a poll shows that more than 70 per cent of Tunisians are confident in the future. Mr Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, are scheduled to go on trial Tuesday for stealing from the government and contributing to the deaths of protesters. They are in exile in Saudi Arabia and will not attend.
It has urged Arab governments to undertake genuine reform. But its foreign policy of "zero problems with the neighbours" is being tested. An ally of Syria, Turkey is having to cope with the repercussions of the Syrian crackdown. First, Turkey is dealing with almost 10,000 refugees from Syria. Second, its alliance is fraying as Turkey increasingly criticises the violence. Turkey also tried to mediate early in Libya but so far its diplomacy has failed. Nato's only predominantly Muslim member, Turkey initially criticised Nato air strikes but it now has naval forces involved in the Nato effort.
No one has demonstrated much appetite for change. The government has increased the number of eligible voters for the August elections for the Federal National Council. In April it arrested five activists who organised a petition calling for greater political liberalisation. It also dissolved the boards of two professional associations, one of jurists and one of teachers, which had participated in the petitions. In March, it sent 500 police to Bahrain to help the Sunni king there quell Shiite protests. It sent military aid to the Libyan rebels and has officially recognised their governing council as Libya's legitimate government.
Peaceful student protests in January have evolved into deadly tribal fighting throughout much of the country. More than 200 people have been killed in Yemen since protests began five months ago. President Ali Abdullah Saleh initially offered concessions, including to step down at the end of the year, but these measures were rejected. As protests worsened, the regime applied more force and suffered defections from key leaders. The Gulf Cooperation Council continues to try to mediate a transfer-of-power agreement that would require Mr Saleh to resign but grants him and close allies immunity. He verbally agreed to sign it but has reneged three times. This month, the conflict erupted into tribal warfare. Mr Saleh was wounded in a rocket attack and remains in Saudi Arabia for medical care. Diplomats continue to negotiate with the regime and opposition leaders. The Yemen economy has worsened dramatically.
Reports by Zoi Constantine, Caryle Murphy, Phil Sands, Bradley Hope, James Calderwood, Suha Philip Ma'ayeh, Hakim Almasmari, John Thorne, Michael Theodoulou and Hugh Naylor
Published: June 17, 2011 04:00 AM