Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square late Tuesday afternoon to denounce new claims to power by President Mohamed Morsi and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in politics. Hundreds still remain in the Square on Wednesday. Morsi's efforts to backpedal from his assertion of power over judicial review did little to curb the influx of protesters. The rally is believed to be one of the largest protests since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and many considered the demonstrations a referendum on Morsi's governance. The protests were comprised of disparate members of the opposition who temporarily united with each other against Morsi's decree. Clashes erupted between police and protesters on streets near the Square in the ninth day of street battles. Protests also occurred throughout most of Egypt's 27 provinces, most notably in Mahalla el-Kubra in the Nile Delta, Suez, Mahalla, Port Said, and in Alexandria, where protesters allegedly attacked the local office of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Syrian state media, twin car bombs planted in Jaramana, a suburb just outside of Damascus, killed at least 34 people. Many Druze and Christian minorities live in that neighborhood. Meanwhile, witnesses claim that insurgents downed a government aircraft that was bombing the town of Daret Azzeh, west of Aleppo and near the Turkish border, although it's still unclear exactly how they did so. "We watched a Syrian plane being shot down as it was flying low to drop bombs," said Ugur Cuneydioglu. This comes just a day after the opposition recorded another major tactical success. On Tuesday, the opposition shot down a military helicopter outside Aleppo with surface-to-air missiles. As of now, it's unclear if these gains are long-term and thus able to present a challenge to Assad's air-power. In another tactical gain, members of the opposition have overtaken two military bases, both of which were used by the Syrian air force. The opposition has gained control of about six bases in just a week. Valerie Amos, the United Nation's humanitarian chief, accused Syria of bombing refugees near the Jordanian border who are trying to flee the country.
- A Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard were assassinated in Sanaa, Yemen's capital. The attackers allegedly wore army uniforms.
- France has agreed to support Palestine's U.N. bid for a "non-member state" status. Britain is also prepared to support the bid, but under the conditions that Abbas not pursue Israel for war crimes and that the PA itself return to negotiations without preconditions.
- In a wave of bombs against security forces in Iraq, at least 21 people died and 70 injured. The bombings also targeted Shiite mosques in Baghdad.
Arguments and Analysis
The revolution in crisis (Nathan Brown, Egypt Independent)
"In periodic visits to Egypt since the revolution, I have been startled by the deteriorating public discourse and the manner in which various ideological camps ensconce themselves in bubbles, circulating the most lurid rumors about their opponents and treating them as fact.
Until recently, the main effects of this unfortunate tendency were shrill rhetoric and bad manners. But it has brought the political system to the brink of a serious crisis.
While possibilities for compromise remain, recent moves have left few lines of retreat. This is the case with the president's 22 November constitutional declaration - one that not only pits Egypt's political forces against each other, but also one that has driven a deep divide among its state institutions.
The presidency and the judiciary are locked in confrontation, each holding a cartoonish image of its adversary."
Sunni Leaders Gaining Clout in Mideast (Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times)
"For years, the United States and its Middle East allies were challenged by the rising might of the so-called Shiite crescent, a political and ideological alliance backed by Iran that linked regional actors deeply hostile to Israel and the West.
But uprising, wars and economics have altered the landscape of the region, paving the way for a new axis to emerge, one led by a Sunni Muslim alliance of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. That triumvirate played a leading role in helping end the eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza, in large part by embracing Hamas and luring it further away from the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah fold, offering diplomatic clout and promises of hefty aid."
--By Jennifer Parker