The Middle East Channel

Bomb Hits Bus in Sanaa Meanwhile Cease-Fire is Brokered in Northern Yemen

An explosion hit a military bus in Yemen's capital Sanaa moments after it came under fire by gunmen Tuesday. The attack killed two soldiers and wounded at least 10 others. Security officials said they are investigating whether the blast was caused by a bomb hidden on or under the bus, a roadside device, or a suicide bomber. The attack came after three explosions hit near the French Embassy, the defense ministry, and the central bank Sunday night, and a day after thousands of Shiite Houthis protested against the government in the capital. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi sent Sanaa's governor, Abdulqader Hillal, to the northern province of Amran in efforts to curb nearly a month of violence between Houthis and fighters from the Hashid tribe, which has killed scores of people. On Tuesday, the parties reportedly agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Hilal, which stipulated that all fighters would withdraw from the area allowing the army to deploy.

Syria

Russia has said that the Syria government will complete the shipment of its chemical weapons by March 1 and will attend the next round of peace talks in Geneva. In a statement Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Syrian authorities announced a plan for "a large shipment of chemical substances" in February. Additionally, another Russian deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said "We have no doubt that the government delegation will take part in the second round of international talks in Geneva." The statements have come as Western officials express concerns over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to peace negotiations and to the elimination of the country's chemical weapons arsenal, which has fallen far behind schedule. Meanwhile, Syrian government forces dropped a crude bomb on a mosque in the northern city of Aleppo Tuesday amid days of intense air raids of barrel bombings. The bombing killed at least five people at the Uthman Bin Affan mosque, which, according to an activist, was used as a religious school for children.

Headlines

  • A suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least two people Monday on a passenger van during rush hour in the Choueifat district of Lebanon's capital Beirut.
  • A Tunisian policeman and two Islamist militants were killed in a firefight during a police raid on a house in a Tunis suburb, where weapons, explosives, and suicide bomb belts were found.
  • Several bombings hit in and around the Iraqi capital Baghdad killing at least seven people Tuesday a day after a wave of car bombings killed an estimated 23 people.
  • Iran has sent troops to two northern provinces hit by record snowfall, which has cut off power to around 480,000 homes and trapped thousands of people.
  • UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan is in "stable and reassuring" condition following surgery after he suffered a stroke on January 24.

Arguments and Analysis 

'Open for Business' (Khalid Mustafa Medani, Middle East Report)

"An all-out civil war in South Sudan could destabilize East Africa from the Horn to the Great Lakes. At the time of writing, regional powers are attempting to broker a ceasefire. But neither of the principal mediators, Uganda and Ethiopia, is a neutral arbiter. Ugandan President Yowereni Museveni is a long-time ally of the SPLM, and its leader Kiir, and would like to see South Sudanese oil transported to the world through his country rather than through Sudan. Ugandan troops have reportedly bombed Machar's forces in Jonglei in support of Juba. Ethiopia's prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, does not have the political clout with the warring sides that his predecessor, the late Meles Zenawi, is said to have had. Moreover, in what has been described as a game of high stakes 'pipeline poker,' Juba's neighbors are jockeying for preferential treatment in transporting South Sudan's oil to the world economy. Kenya and Uganda would like to build a pipeline through Uganda to the Kenyan port of Lamu, while Ethiopia hopes to persuade Juba to route the oil across Ethiopian territory to Djibouti. Either scheme would allow South Sudan to break its dependence on Khartoum.

For his part, therefore, Omar Bashir is not content to watch the war from Khartoum. He has clearly made a military alliance with Kiir to secure the oilfields. Following partition, approximately three quarters of the oil left in the ground belongs to South Sudan. But the pipelines, refineries and export terminals required to take South Sudan's oil to market are located in the north. Juba agreed to pay Khartoum $2.6 billion in export fees, over four years, to help cover one third of the north's revenue gap of an estimated $7.7 billion for the period 2011-2015. The Bashir regime is heavily dependent on these royalties. If the conflict continues, the Khartoum regime, like Uganda, is likely to intervene directly, which could mean additional combat along the already conflict-ridden borders of the two Sudans. Any long-term solution to the crisis in South Sudan must address its underlying political and economic causes rather than simply negotiating a tenuous peace between politicians who have a record of dangerously politicizing communal loyalties for personal and political gain."

'Algeria Three Years After the Arab Spring' (Daniela Huber, Susi Dennison, James. D. Le Suer, The German Marshall Fund)

"Its security, economic, and political weight notwithstanding, Algeria was largely ignored by international media and diplomacy when the Arab Spring started. Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were perceived as the harbingers of a wave of democratic transition in the Arab world. While Algeria also initially witnessed the eruption of protests, the government showed relative restraint and immediately announced state subsidies. Protests soon died down. However, as Frederic Volpi has pointed out, the fact that the Algerian regime 'survived this wave of revolts does not mean that it is strong or stable in the full sense, but only that it was not vulnerable to the particular forms of mobilization that marked those uprisings.' Indeed, the Algerian polity seems more than troubled in political, as well as socio-economic terms. Youth unemployment stands at 21.5 percent; public sector spending has increased by 25 percent since 2011, which has to be supported by continuously rising oil and gas prices, the level of corruption remains high; and the question of the succession of ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has only been postponed for now.

At the same time, with the tides of the Arab Spring shifting, the importance of Algeria for regional security has come to the forefront once more. For both the United States and Europe, the perception of the Arab Spring has increasingly turned from a benign democratic transition to a security question, involving increased migration to Europe, the security vacuum in Libya and the broader Sahel region, the proliferation of extremist groups, and a wave of terror attacks such as the Benghazi attack on the American ambassador and the attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria. In the run-up to and during the French intervention in Mali, Algeria emerged as a crucial link."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

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