Monday, January 16, 2012

Al Qaeda Seizes Yemen Town

Armed members of Al Qaeda have seized the Yemen town of Radda, centering their occupation in the old citadel and a nearby mosque. Radda was apparently captured with little fight, as it was only defended by the local police. This move puts them close than ever to the capital of Sanaa. Til now they had been restricted to the southern province of Abyan. Fears are that they will continue to expand throughout the country, as tribal forces expand in the north.

The clashes in Yemen, are said to be of great concern to their strong allies, the United States and Saudi Arabia, but not much has actually been done by either country to assist in ending the violence, which the UN estimates has displaced four hundred thousand people. US aid was expected, due to the relationship with Yemen, and that Al Qaeda is a top enemy of the United States.

Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is in the midst of stepping down, as demanded by the people of the country. Power has officially been transferred to the Vice President, but there are fears that he is still pulling the strings and will never actually leave the country.

Hezbollah Backs Assad

Since President Bashar al-Assad's televised address last week, not much has actually changed in Syria. Every day on the streets protestors are being killed by government security forces. Every day the civil war grows and more troops defect to join the rebels. And another member of Syria's government has defected as well, stating that many more would do so, but are afraid to do so.

President Assad has once again offered amnesty to those who have protested against him, this marks the fourth time he has done so. Protestors have until January 31st to turn themselves in, for a full pardon. The Lebanese terrorist organization, Hezbollah has suggested that the amnesty be accepted to avoid further bloodshed. The opposition however points out that each time anyone has accepted the offer, they have disappeared without due process. Over the duration of the protests, an estimated sixty-nine thousand have been detained. Less than half of which have been released.

Sunday, United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon demanded that Assad's government cease killing Syrian people. But as China and Russia have both blocked any attempt by the UN Security Council to even impose sanctions, it is extremely unclear what exactly Ki-moon plans to do about it if the violence continues. Qatar's leader, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, did state that troops should be sent in to enforce peace. However, Arab League leaders said that no plan was in place. Egypt, the country most able to send troops, stated they are too busy dealing with their own internal turmoil and national defense.

Romanian Crisis

For most of the past week Romanian's by the thousands have taken to the streets to protest against austerity moves made by the government. The latest ignition for the protests was the forced resigning of the popular Raed Arafat, who had been fighting extremely unpopular government health care reforms. Unfortunately now the protests have turned violent with both police and protestors taking injuries. Prime Minister Emile Boc warned that violence would not be tolerated.

Bucharest, the largest city and capital, has the been main focus for the protests demanding President Traian Basescu step down from power and that new elections be granted. Basescu's government has been unpopular since taking power in 2004. They've gained in strength since 2009 when an agreement was signed with the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank for a loan of $27.5 billion. Part of the agreement was reducing wages by twenty five percent and increased taxes.

Because of the austerity measures, many Romanians have been unable to find work, seeking employment in other countries. The measures have broken up the country's society, with too many leaving families behind and sending what money they can back to them. Also struck by the measures were pensions, leaving many retirees financially stranded. The Romanian economy has been all but crippled by them, with no change really in sight.