How long can this go on?
Big demos today Yemen and Syria. President Saleh has so far played rope-a-dope, pretending to negotiate but in fact ducking whenever the GCC or Saudis get close to a serious demand that he step down. The demonstrations in Syria are still focused mainly on regime abuses, especially the emergency law, rather than an end to the regime. No one seems fooled by the changes President Bashar has made in the cabinet, but somehow he manages to curry favor with both Syrians and the internationals.
In Libya, the military situation seems stalemated in a dynamic kind of way, but the Big 3 (US, France and UK) are making it clear that Gaddafi has to go. I trust this means they are working hard on it in clandestine ways. They are also admitting, as peacefare.net began suggesting in some depth on March 28, that a post-war reconstruction effort is necessary.
In Bahrain, the protesters’ cause seems lost for now. The Sunni monarchy there managed to reframe the whole affair as a sectarian conflict, which in a bizarre sort of logic justified the Saudi/UAE intervention and the crackdown on supposedly Iranian-inspired Shia. No doubt the protests will be back at some point, and likely with a far sharper sectarian edge. Torture and kill people for being Shia and they will no doubt seek recompense on that basis.
The main question now in Yemen and Syria is whether the demonstrators can maintain their momentum and continue to press for what they want. They are doing fairly well so far, but it is not easy to get people out every Friday, especially when there is serious risk involved. What happened in Libya should be ample warning that taking up arms is no quick or easy solution. Massive nonviolent protest is the way to go, and it won’t be easy to sustain.