News / Middle East

Libyan Uprising Boosts Morale in Mideast


The apparent victory by rebels in Libya is sending shockwaves throughout the Middle East.  An uprising that appeared to be lost is boosting the morale of protesters facing other Arab governments that have responded with severe repression.

The Middle East is notorious for the longevity of its rulers.  Even after Tunisians and Egyptians overthrew their leaders, many considered those uprisings flukes.  And Moammar Gadhafi's brutal response to a popular revolt in Libya reinforced that view.

"Maybe the lesson of the Arab Spring was going to be if you're bloody enough to shoot peaceful demonstrators, then you get to stay in power," said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Protests in Bahrain also faced a brutal response, with military help from Saudi Arabia. And Yemen's uprising has entered a stalemate.  

David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says the so-called Arab Spring remains in doubt.

"This is a long and drawn out and still unfinished process, and it's still not clear what the outcome is going to be even in some of the places that have been in turmoil since February or March," added Pollock.

Still, he says what is happening in Libya will be a boost for the anti-government protesters elsewhere, especially in Syria.

Last week, the United States and its key European allies called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and banned Syrian oil imports.

The U.S. would not have taken that step, says Michele Dunne of the Atlantic Council, if not for earlier criticism of Assad from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

"The fact that they're all now turning against al-Assad and saying that they're out of patience with him. This is a really important development," noted Dunne.

As Libyan rebels were entering Tripoli last weekend, Assad went on state television and insisted his government is not in danger of falling.

"I think that that is probably a sign of fear on his part," noted Pollock.  He adds that Assad's remark should not be taken at face value.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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