Juan Cole: Top Ten Arab Spring Advances this Week

Roundup: Historians' Take

Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

With the horrid crackdowns on dissent in Syria and Bahrain and the vicious shelling by Qaddafi brigades of the port of Misrata in Libya on Tuesday, it would be easy to concentrate solely on the negative news. But the Arab Spring is still producing some positive reforms and questioning of past corrupt practices, and even major governmental change. Tuesday’s positive developments:

1. Yemeni opposition leaders and dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh will meet in Riyadh on Monday to sign an agreement stipulating that Saleh will step down within 30 days and there will be a peaceful transfer of power, with Saleh and those close to him granted amnesty. The compromise was negotiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises 6 Gulf nations, most of which have oil or natural gas riches. Yemenis hope that the deal will calm down the tense situation in the country, which has seen big demonstrations and sometimes vicious repression. The government intervened on Tuesday against a big demonstration in Taizz on Tuesday, with 1 killed and 12 wounded in the ensuing altercation.

2. One reason for Saleh’s sudden flexibility may be that many Yemeni troops have been joining the protest movement. Euronews has a video report....

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