Gaddafi gains ground while protests spread to Saudi Arabia

Location of Benghazi within Libya.

Image via Wikipedia

The Gaddafi end-game gets murkier as he uses air power, regular troops and heavy artillery to retake towns controlled by the demonstrators. Zawaiyah and Ras Lanuf have been ruthlessly bombarded into submission. In the process many (at least 1000) Libyans have been killed by other Libyans. In the meantime NATO, the European Union, and the UN are dithering about the introduction of a no-fly zone across Libyan air space. It is conceivable that with no other forces coming into play Gaddafi could even try to retake Benghazi. In any event without US support such a no-fly zone would be difficult to implement. Any UN Security Council resolutions will be watered down since Russia and China have a fundamental aversion to the support of any group challenging authoritarian rule.

Gulf Arab states said the Gaddafi regime was illegitimate, and urged contact to be made with the rebels while President Barack Obama’s top intelligence adviser James Clapper predicted government forces would defeat the rebels.

Gaddafi has to go but the end-game for him and his family could be a long drawn-out affair. While France has recognised the rebel National Libyan Council as the legitimate government, other countries concerned that may well have to deal with Gaddafi for some time yet have not had the courage to follow suit. Berlusconi will see to it that any European consensus will be hard to come by.

But these hot and humid winds of change in North Africa and the Middle East represent a fundamental shift of political climate and are unlikely to be stopped. What is commonly known as the Sirocco is called Chom (hot) or arifi (thirsty) in North Africa and Simoom in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and the desert of Arabia. In Libya it is called the Ghibli, in Egypt it is the Khamsin  and it is the Sharavin in Israel.

File:Persian Gulf Arab States english.PNG

map via Wikipedia

And the winds are now blowing towards the House of Saud. Yesterday (Thursday)

Saudi security forces fired on scores of protesters in the city of Qatif, according to two witnesses and an activist.

The protests took place one day ahead of a planned “Day of Rage” in the Middle Eastern country.

Defying a Saudi government ban on all kinds of public demonstrations, more than 100 people in the predominantly Shiite city in eastern Saudi Arabia urged authorities to release Shiite prisoners, the witnesses and activist said.

At some point, the witnesses said Saudi security forces shot to disperse the crowd. It was unknown if the forces fired rubber bullets or live ammunition. Those injured were taken to Qatif Central Hospital for treatment, the activist and witnesses said.

The Jerusalem Post writes:

The time after Friday prayers has proved to be crucial in popular uprisings that have brought down Tunisian and Egyptian rulers who once seemed invulnerable.

Gulf leaders are struggling to hold back an Internet-era generation of Arabs who appear less inclined to accept arguments appealing to religion and tradition to explain why ordinary citizens should be shut out of decision-making.

Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf, is home to Islam’s holiest sites – and is a long-time US ally that has ensured oil supplies for the West. More than 32,000 people have backed a Facebook call to hold two demonstrations in the country, the first of them Friday.

Riyadh has tried to counter the call with promises of money and other measures – including a pro-government Facebook page “against the revolution” with 23,000 supporters.

The protest movements hit populous Yemen a month ago, and spread to the Gulf states, where dynasties secured their rule in colonial times.

Bahrain – an island state, whose rulers look to Riyadh for support – has been the most vulnerable so far. This week, hardline Shi’ite groups formed an alliance to ditch the monarchy and turn Bahrain into a republic.

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