Yearender: Major news events in the Middle East in 2011   2011-12-31 16:11:03            

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The following are the major news events in the Middle East in 2011 (in chronological order):

1. Tunisians revolt, sending long-serving president flee, leading to similar popular unrest throughout the region

On Jan. 14, Tunisian President Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 24 years, fled to Saudi Arabia after nearly one-month of national popular protests against his rule.

From Tunisia, popular unrest has since spread to other Arab countries, including Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

2. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak steps down, opening a new chapter in politics in the most populous Arab country

Encouraged by the triumphant Tunisians, Egyptians also took to the street to vent out their anger at their own long-time leader.

On Feb. 11, President Hosni Mubarak, after ruling Egypt for nearly 30 years, stepped down and handed over power to the military's supreme council.

Nearly 11 months after Mubarak's ouster, popular protests never really ended amid political wranglings and worsening economic conditions, leading to repeated bloody clashes with armed forces and police.

According to the timetable set by the military, Egyptians will finish phased-in and complex parliamentary elections in March and the presidential elections will be held on June 30, 2012.

3. NATO intervenes in Libya, forcing a regime change

On March 17, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution, which, in the name of protecting civilians, demanded an immediate ceasefire between the opposition and the Libyan government. It also authorized the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries began to launch air strikes against Libya, which gave definite support to the weak opposition.

On Aug. 23, the troops of the National Transitional Council broke into Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's bastion of Bab al-Aziziyah in the capital of Tripoli.

On Oct. 20, Gaddafi was captured in his hometown Sirte and died later of heavy wounds.

4. Bin Laden killed, but global anti-terrorism efforts have long way to go

On May 1, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that al-Qaida leader Osama Bin laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

However, global terrorism will not disappear for that. Other terror outfits, like al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and Somali pirates linked to al-Qaida, are posing an increasing challenge to the world.

The death of bin Laden was only a temporary achievement instead of a definite victory in the anti-terrorism war.

Many believe terrorism will not be eradicated as long as hegemonism, power politics, religious discrimination and development imbalance still exist.

5. South Sudan declares independence

On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan declared independence and Salva Kiir Mayardit took office as the president of the new country.

During a referendum to decide the fate of unity or division of Sudan in January, nearly 99 percent of the voters approved the south's secession from Sudan.

Since then, the once largest country in Africa split into two and the continent's political landscape was changed.

6. Palestine's failed bid for UN membership

On Sept. 23, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered the Palestinians' application to become the 194th member of the United Nations to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The move reflected the eagerness of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to break the impasse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and rebuild public confidence.

On Oct. 31, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it decided to admit the Palestinians as a member state of the organization, despite strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

However, for the Palestinians, UNESCO membership doesn't make accession into the United Nations any easier due to the strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

7. Rise of Islamic power

Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party won 89 seats in a 217-member assembly nine months after the ouster of Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, becoming the single-biggest share of the assembly.

About one month later, Morocco's moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) clinched a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections, winning 107 of 395 seats.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing Egyptian parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is also expected to emerge as the biggest winner.

The rise of Islamic power reflects the dissatisfaction of the Muslim world in the Middle East toward their pro-western governments as well as their aspiration for a clean and efficient government and social justice.

8. Yemeni president signs deal to quit power

On Nov. 23, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf-brokered deal in Saudi Arabia to hand over power after 33 years in office.

Under the deal, the president would give power to his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and resign within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution.

Hadi would then issue a decree assigning the candidate chosen by the opposition to form a government, while an early presidential election will be held in 90 days.

In the agreed mechanism, Saleh would retain the title of honorary president until a new leader is elected.

9. Arab League slaps sanctions against Syria

On Nov. 27, the Arab League (AL) decided to immediately impose sanctions against Syria after Damascus failed to accept an Arab plan to send monitors in response to its deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising.

The sanctions included a travel ban on senior Syrian officials, the list of whom will be decided by an implementation committee, and the suspension of business with the Syrian Central Bank and the Syrian government, making Syria the first member country to suffer economic sanctions from the AL.

10. All U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq

After almost nine years of invasion, the last batch of U.S. troops finally withdrew from Iraq on Dec. 18, ending a long war that opened a "Pandora's Box" of sectarian violence and ethnic conflicts. The U.S. invasion in 2003 toppled the government of Saddam Hussein, but violence persisted, and peaked in 2006 and 2007.

The military intervention cost the lives of almost 4,500 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Torn by nine years of conflict, war-shattered Iraq remains overshadowed by uncertainties as it still faces frequent insurgency, a fragile power-sharing government and an oil-reliant economy plagued by power shortages.

Editor: Fang Yang
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