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In the News: Political Protests Continue Across the Arab World

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Finally, after two and a half weeks of protests and politics, Egypt’s reigning leader, Hosni Mubarak, was removed from power and replaced by Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi. 

Tantawi is part of the temporary ruling council that removed Mubarak from rule and forced his resignation last Friday. During the time of unrest, Egyptian officials looked to the military to be a force of the people. When the protests first began, the military was praised for its neutrality. Only in the end did the military have to show its force by bringing in tanks and troops, but the military played a vital role in the removal of the President.

 The ruling council is a transitional government until Egypt establishes a permanent democratic society. The U.S. is backing this decision and has sent $150 million to assist the transition. Tantawi has had some disagreements with the former President Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal Mubarak, and was opposed to the idea that Gamal would assume power after the resignation of his father.   

Tantawi is seen by many Egyptians as an unlikely candidate for the position, being that he is 75 years old, and was appointed as Chief Commander in 1991. He also has a volatile military history involving three Egyptian wars against Israel. Many Egyptians claim that he is removed from the ideas of the current generations, two-thirds of the Egyptian population is under 30.    

Despite his contemporary short-comings, Tantawi has a rigorous plan for establishing a Democratic Government in Egypt. He has dissolved the Egypt parliament because it is mainly comprised of pro-Mubarak supporters, and suspended the nation’s constitution in order to set up a firm foundation for the government that is absent of the bureaucratic processes. 

Other Middle Eastern countries have taken the protests in Egypt as a mark for their own rebellions. Yemen, a country on the southern coast of the Arabic Peninsula, is having a rise of protests that are closely resembling those just a few weeks ago in Egypt. Around 6,000 Yemenis are protesting their own regime controlled by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in power for 32 years. 

Though the Egyptian military played a rather neutral role in the protest in Cairo, the Yemeni military has taken a different approach. Witnesses say that the military is firing in order to disperse the crowds in the streets. Close to 50 protestors have been detained and there is an unknown number of injuries and casualties. 

Bahrain, the small island nation that sits in the Persian Gulf, is also experiencing an uprising of protestors that are rebelling against the Sunni Monarchy that is in power. The Bahraini government has taken an even more violent approach to the protests. Riot police were sent in to the protestor’s camp throwing tear gas and swinging batons. 

Many in the protest camp were sleeping when this aggressive assault began. The assault failed to disperse the protestors and has only fueled the fire for the Yemeni protestors. Officials have reported that the assault has left 4 dead.

While Yemen and Egypt have particular importance for the U.S. as far as foreign relations, Bahrain is a keystone to U.S. occupation and strategic control in the Middle East. The island is home to the 5th Fleet of the U.S. Navy, which lies below the coast of Iran.