AMU Homeland Security Opinion

Rundown of Middle East Unrest

By William Tucker
Tipping Point in Yemen?
The President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is planning on announcing a national unity government within the next 24 hours. This move is in response to the building pressure on his regime as protests have swept the country demanding that the president step down. In reality the announcement of a national unity government doesn’t much matter – the opposition has already rejected the offer. The opposition’s stance is understandable because at this juncture they have the upper hand. After numerous acts of violence against unarmed demonstrators the protests have manage to persist which means that Saleh is going to have to escalate the violence to end the impasse or acquiesce to the opposition’s demand that he step down. Saleh’s use of force has had the unintended consequence of emboldening his foes and may bring his rule to an end much sooner than the 2013 presidential election. The bottom line is that we can expect this standoff to come to a head in the next few days.

Saudi Arabia Takes Preventive Measures
With multiple Arab nations facing unrest it is quite natural that much of the world will nervously watch Saudi Arabia. As the world’s top oil producer any unrest in the Kingdom will impact global oil prices, which, in turn, will impact the global economy. As the world tries to shake off the effects of the most recent recession any spike in energy prices could serve to undermine the economic recovery. The Saudis understand the risks all too well and have taken measures, such as area denial and monitoring social networking sites, to prevent people from gathering. These tactics may not work so well in the predominately Shiite regions in the east, however. This segment of Saudi society may not be able to threaten the regime existentially, but they can certainly cause problems for Riyadh. We haven’t seen any signs that an uprising is in the works, but judging by the unrest of the last few months it can happen quickly and shouldn’t be dismissed.
U.S. Repositioning Assets Around Libya
Department of Defense Spokesman Col. Dave Lapan stated today that the U.S. is “repositioning” forces in the Mediterranean should the need arise to assist international efforts in Libya. In addition to Lapan’s remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added that the U.S. is sending aid teams to Egypt and Algeria to assist with the influx of Libyan refugees fleeing the recent violence. These moves by the U.S. do not necessarily indicate that an intervention is in the offing, but rather show that the Obama administration wants options for preventing the situation from deteriorating any further. There is a real concern that the longer Gaddafi remains in control of Tripoli the higher the probability of a civil war. Although much of the country has fallen to the opposition, Gaddafi stills controls the capital and its two million residents – roughly about one-third of Libya’s population. Thus far the nation seems to be holding together, but oil output has fallen substantially which will put a further strain on an already suffering economy. Should the situation deteriorate any further the already high levels of violence may be just a shadow of what’s to come. Over the next few days we’ll explore military options available to the U.S. and other concerned powers.

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