Women queue to vote in today's Presidential election in Egypt
See also Syria Opinion: Empty Talk --- The US and Its Allies Have No Strategy to End This Crisis br>
Turkey Live Coverage (23 May): Tough Line on "Counter-Terrorism"...and Israel's Military br>
Tuesday's Yemen, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Suicide Bombing in Sana'a
1924 GMT: Syria. Speaking of gasoline, scenes like the one below, reportedly taken today in Kanaker, Damascus, are increasingly common. The prices of refined gasoline and diesel have skyrocketed, and widespread shortages are reported. The government claims that the shortages are the result of sanctions, but as Robert Ford points out (in the previous update) refined oil was exempt from foreign sanctions in order to avoid this problem. These shortages are the result of the military using up all the fuel.
Sufian Allaw said the punitive measures were to blame for the shortages that have left Syrians across the country standing in long lines to pay inflated prices for cooking gas, fuel, sugar and other staples.
The U.S. ambassador to Damascus denied that the international sanctions are to blame for the shortages facing Syrians.
"Our sanctions purposefully do not target oil and diesel imports, because we know that the Syrian people need both for their day-to-day lives," Ambassador Robert Ford wrote on the embassy's Facebook page.
Ford said the government is using fuel imports for its tanks.
1827 GMT: Egypt. Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik was attacked today as he got inside his car outside of the election commission. It does not appear that he has any serious injuries, but an angry crowd gathered around his car as he was entering the vehicle. The picture below shows Shafik entering the car, and the video below that reportedly shows the event:
Why the anger? Shafik is a former air force commander, and was Mubarak's last Prime Minister. Rumors are circulating that he is polling very highly in poor neighborhoods in Cairo, despite being considered an anti-revolutionary by many. Part of the reason for the shift appears to be some backlash against the Muslim Brotherhood.
If Shafik polls fares well, there will likely be a many who are angry. This, perhaps, was just a small sample.
1423 GMT: Syria. The NATO conference concluded this weekend in Chicago. Do you understand NATO's plan to end the crisis in Syria?
If you're thinking, "wait, there is no plan," then you've come to the same conclusion I did. In my latest analysis, I argue that not only is intervention not on the table, even the threat of intervention appears to be off the table, leaving Washington and its allies with absolutely no strategy in ending, or even limiting, the extent of the crisis in Syria.
And you'll love the highly provocative picture, a poster with a message, in English, to the Obama administration from some of Syria's most outspoken members of the opposition, the citizens of Kafranbel.
James Miller takes over from Scott Lucas.
1250 GMT: Syria. Protest today in Maasaran in Idlib Province:
The Yemeni Government is expected to request $10 billion in assistance.
Wednesday’s meeting is the first since President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February after 33 years in power. Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa and Planning and International Cooperation Minister Mohammed al-Saadi are expected to attend.
In April, the International Monetary Fund resumed lending to Yemen, approving the payment of a $93.7 million loan to help the country address a balance of payments deficit. This, however, is only a fraction of the $3 billion of aid pledged by the “Friends of Yemen” in 2006 and, according to al-Saadi, still not delivered.
Seven aid groups warned today, “Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food crisis.” The agencies called on ministers from Gulf countries and Western nations to “scale up efforts to tackle” the problem, claiming at least 10 million people, about 44% of the population, do not get enough food to eat and one in three children was “severely malnourished".
0842 GMT: Egypt. Reports indicate voting is proceeding smoothly, with long queues and few disruptions, in the Presidential election.
0835 GMT: Tunisia. Index on Censorship summarises the case of Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, sentenced in March to 7 1/2 years in prison for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
An appeals court ruling expected in Mejri's case on Monday. Baji has fled the country.
"The FSA is not at all responsible for the operation," Mustafa al-Sheikh, a high-ranking FSA officer, said by telephone from Istanbul. "This is an attempt to distort the image of the FSA. The FSA does not believe in this methodology."
Syrian State media blamed the FSA for the abductions, but al-Sheikh claimed, "[This] is no doubt the work of the regime, which wants to sow chaos in the region."
The opposition Syrian National Council issued a statement calling for the prompt release of the Lebanese group, while saying it did "not think it is impossible that the regime is involved in this operation".
The weekend before last I was in Hatay province, in southern Turkey, interviewing Syrian rebels and activists, who all complained of the lack of foreign assistance in toppling the Assad regime. Even the "non-lethal" aid that the Obama administration had promised hadn't seemed to make it through to these fighters, many of whom had spent as much as $6,000 of their own money to buy black-market Kalashnikovs.
A lot's changed in a week.
Rebel sources in Hatay told me last night that not only is Turkey supplying light arms to select battalion commanders, it is also training Syrians in Istanbul. Men from the unit I was embedded with were vetted and called up by Turkish intelligence in the last few days and large consignments of AK-47s are being delivered by the Turkish military to the Syrian-Turkish border. No one knows where the guns came from originally, but no one much cares.
The office is an informal headquarters that supporters of the Syrian uprising use to manage their battle with President Bashar Assad’s regime on multiple fronts. From here, some report on clashes inside Syria, others wage media campaigns, and still others work with Syrian refugees --- who, according to the opposition have reached 170,000, a number far in excess of any official counts.
The center also hosts those who coordinate with the rebel Free Syrian Army, and liaise with political and security officials regarding their movements....
The opposition’s operations are above board,[Khaled] Mustafa says, but he adds that “we don’t reveal the details of our work, so long as the regime is lurking through Lebanese authorities who are loyal to the regime and Assad’s family. We take caution.”
Al-Sharif was briefly detained after her film. She has received death threats, and she recently lost her job after she insisted on appearing at the Oslo Freedom Forum:
After I was invited to speak...in Oslo, I asked for four days off and my company refused. My boss called me and said, "If you are going to talk at another conference, you will lose your job. You are not allowed to go. We don't want our name to be associated with you."
Al-Sharif is defiant: "I measure the impact I make by how harsh the attacks are," she says. "The harsher the attacks, the better I am doing."
0630 GMT: Syria. Discreetly-taken video of a long queue in Aleppo Province for gas --- shortages have been reported throughout the country:
0600 GMT: Egypt. Polls are opening in Egypt for today's Presidential election. Fifty million people are eligible to vote in the ballot, 15 months after the fall of the Mubarak regime.
There are 11 candidates in the contest, with a runoff between the top two in June. Leading contenders include former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa; Ahmed Shafiq, former head of intelligence and Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister; the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi; and former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.
The Guardian profiles the likely front-runners.