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Middle East and North Africa Report
Arab Reform Initiative
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The Syrian regime is losing ground to armed rebels, while the exiled opposition is in chaos
Information coming from Syria points to the accelerating erosion of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While the possible repercussions of the massacre perpetrated in Houla on May 25th remain unclear, the regime hasmore and more reason to be nervous. The “poison operation” conducted against top security figures on May 19th has demonstrated the rebels’ ability to infiltrate the highest ranks of the regime. Loyalist troops are no longer able to maintain control over the whole of the country’s territory, while defiance is growing in Damascus and Aleppo.
Despite continuing harsh repression, the morale of activists and rebels inside Syria has improved in the past weeks, as the Free Syrian Army has been growing in size and capacity, and as some progress is reported interms of its organisation and coordination. In contrast, dissidents no longer expect very much of the SyrianNational Council, which looks increasingly divided and out of touch.
Is the Syrian conflict spilling over into Lebanon?
The deadly clashes between Sunni Islamist activists and Alawites around Tripoli have renewed fears that anall-out sectarian conflict might develop in Lebanon. Many domestic and external actors may have an interest in a spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. So far, however, Hizbullah has appeared very keen not to get involved in the clashes and on protecting the country from the repercussions of the Syrian conflict. Yet, after the abduction on May 22nd of a group of Shia “pilgrims”, tensions are dangerously on the rise.
Egypt: “Is this what the revolution looks like?”
With the results of the first round of the presidential elections and the Mubarak verdict, the Egyptian revolutionhas recently suffered a harsh blow. While Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been doing their best to convince Egyptians that their candidate is the only possible choice to save the revolution, they are finding it increasingly difficult to retain the people’s trust. As anger is mounting against them, Ahmed Shafiq might be set to become the next president. In such a context, the revolutionaries face a serious dilemma in trying to decide on which strategy to adopt. Trying to build a credible opposition bringing together ex-presidential contenders Sabahi, Abul Futuh and Ali could be an option.