The Arab Spring has moved in a long hot summer of conflict, with devastating violence in Syria and an intermittently harsh civil war in Libya.
But in spite of the views of many critics that the Libyan conflict would lead to endless stalemate or division of the country, the noose is tightening around Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Tripoli. A dual assault from the east and the southwest is taking more territory, more oil facilities, and critical border crossings out of the hands of the Gadhafi regime. Another major figure in the regime defected with his family this week. If the rebels can continue at this rate, they will soon put the final squeeze on Gadhafi, and we can expect the morale and solidarity of his supporters to further decline. He may hold out in his bunker in Tripoli a bit longer, but my earlier predictions that his regime would not last to the end of the year still look accurate.
In Syria, things have much further to go. But the Assad regime has not been able to extinguish protest, and this week the US, UK, and France stepped up their sanctions and the US has finally plainly called for Assad to give up power (See my post “Syria — US will say Assad has to go”). It will take a few weeks for the new sanctions to start to bite, but they will hurt the business class that has been the last major prop for Assad. It may take a few months further for their support to start to peel away, but this is a major turning point, and from here it looks to be a downhill slide for Assad.
Given how gloomy and wretched things have looked in the rich democracies this week, it is good to be reminded that people are still fighting for their freedom, and that progress toward democracy is still taking place despite great difficulties.