Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned Tuesday after failing to push through his plan for a new technocrat government. Jebali dissolved the government as political tensions heightened after the February 6 assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid. Jebali had said he would step down if his ruling Islamist Ennahda Party rejected his proposal. After a meeting with President Moncef Marzouki on Tuesday he said, "I vowed that if my initiative did not succeed, I would resign and I have done so." He did not rule out returning to the government, but insisted it be inclusive and free from political infighting. On Monday, head of Ennahda Rachid Ghannouchi put forward an alternative proposal for a government mixed with politicians and technocrats and said that there was consensus that Jebali remain as prime minister. The continued political instability in Tunisia has further jeopardized the country's fragile economy. On Tuesday, Standard and Poor's downgraded Tunisia's credit rating, citing "a risk that the political situation could deteriorate further amid a worsening fiscal, external and economic outlook."
According to Syrian state media, a football player was killed after two mortar shells hit the Tishreen stadium in Damascus's al-Baramkeh district. The attack came a day after two mortars reportedly exploded outside one of President Bashar al-Assad's palaces in the capital's northwestern district of Muhajireen. Opposition activists said that the Free Syrian Army fired up to seven mortar rounds at the Tishreen Palace. No casualties have been reported. Assad has two other palaces in the city. Opposition fighters previously claimed to have fired rockets at the presidential palaces, but the attack on Tuesday was confirmed by the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the death toll from Monday's rocket attack on Aleppo has risen to an estimated 31 people. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, it was "likely a surface-to-surface missile" that had been fired into the opposition held Jabal Badro district of the northern city. On Wednesday, Russia reported that one of two planes of humanitarian assistance it is sending to Syria has landed in the port of Latakia. On their return to Russia, the planes are expected to be filled by Russia citizens wishing to evacuate from Syria.
- Israeli's Tzipi Livni is the first to join Netanyahu's coalition, set to be named justice minister, saying she will "leave no stone unturned" to become part of a government "that commits to bringing peace."
- Saudi Arabia has sworn in 30 women to the previously all male Shura council, marking the first time women have been permitted to hold political office in the kingdom.
- Israel released part of a report on Tuesday on the death of Prisoner X, identified last week as Australian born Benjamin Zygier.
- U.S. think-tank the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has released a report finding that the attainment of nuclear weapons by Iran is unlikely to trigger a Middle East arms race.
Arguments and Analysis
Online Mobilization in Times of Conflict: A Framing-Analysis Perspective (Mohamed Ben Moussa, Arab Media & Society)
"The pro-democracy popular uprisings gripping the Arab world have ended or are seriously threatening long-entrenched dictatorships and repressive regimes. The uprisings have also been dubbed Facebook and Twitter revolutions, highlighting the role of the Internet in political advocacy and change. The use of the Internet in collective action in the Arab region is not a recent phenomenon, since the technology has marked mediated politics in the region during the last decade. However, scholarly research on the subject remains insufficient and more important, largely under-theorized. To address these lacunas, this article analyzes the role of the Internet in political advocacy in a Muslim-majority society (the Moroccan one) through social movement theory and framing analysis. This article differentiates between various levels of mobilization to which the Internet contributes, and sheds light on its potential as a technology and political medium for collective action framing. Focusing on the case of Moroccan social movements and their framing of the 2009 Gaza war, the piece aims to analyze how the Internet contributes to the capacity of oppositional civil society groups to challenge political, social and cultural injustices at the local, regional and international levels. This article argues that as the Internet becomes the central medium of political advocacy in the region, it increasingly shapes the organizational structure, boundaries and tactics of oppositional social movements and thus contributes to determining the outcome of their struggles."
Tunnel Vision (Issandr El Amrani, Latitude Blog, The New York Times)
"The Egyptian military's recent flooding of tunnels at the border between Egypt and Gaza is its most aggressive attempt yet to restrict smuggling since Israel imposed a blockade on the Palestinian territory in 2005. Sewage water is reportedly being used to weaken the tunnels' structure, sometimes trapping smugglers inside.
Although such efforts are not new, their endorsement by the Muslim Brotherhood is.
The Hamas government in Gaza, which regulates the tunnels and collects a tax on activity through them, has condemned the flooding. It says the trade - which is mostly in consumer goods and fuel, not weaponry - is necessary to counter the impact of Israel's embargo, and it is calling on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border crossing to allow for unfettered supplies. When the Muslim Brotherhood was in the opposition, it backed this position. But it has not changed Egypt's policy since Mohamed Morsi was elected president, even after the mini war between Hamas and Israel last November."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/FETHI BELAID