Leader: President Bashar al Assad
Status: In power
What to watch: When and if Assad's regime will collapse
"Your turn is coming, Bashar." That's the chant reported from the streets of Syria following the death of Libya's Qadhafi on Thursday. But still, President Bashar al Assad's regime continues its violent repression of the Syrian people. According to estimates from human rights organizations, Assad is now responsible for killing about 3,000 Syrian people since anti-government uprisings began in March.
Countries around the world, including the United States, have increasingly put pressure on Assad to give up his power. In mid-August, President Obama, along with other international leaders, explicitly called for Assad to step down. The United States in August also imposed aggressive sanctions on Assad's government, blocking all property of the Syrian government and banning American citizens from investing in or exporting services to Syria or its petroleum industry.
However, unlike with Libya, the international measures taken against Assad will likely stop with sanctions, since there's little chance that foreign nations will intervene militarily on protesters' behalf. According to President Obama in August, "the United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement."
For now, it's a waiting game to see just how long Syrian protesters can keep up their energy, and how long Assad's regime can survive amid increasing isolation in the region and a severe shortage of resources.
Leader: President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Status: In power
What to watch: How long can Saleh stay afloat?
Many in Yemen hoped it was the end for President Ali Abdullah Saleh in June when he left the country to receive medical treatment for injuries he suffered during an attack on his palace. Nevertheless, his return from Saudi Arabia in September has brought another round of violent protests against his rule. Amid international condemnation, Saleh continues to hold onto power in Yemen; but experts think that his ouster–after 33 years of control—might finally be near.
On Friday, the UN Security Council was set to vote on a resolution that would put added pressure on Saleh to resign. In May, the United States backed an initiative put forth by the Gulf Cooperation Council, a union of other Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, that would grant Saleh immunity if he gave up control of Yemen's government. Saleh has refused to sign such an agreement, and his government forces continue to carry out violence against protesters.
Political stability in Yemen, a hotbed for terrorist groups, especially for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, remains a top concern for U.S. policymakers. Though the Obama administration has supported attempts to get him out of power, Saleh has been a marginal partner in fighting terrorists within Yemen's borders, allowing U.S. drone strikes against terrorist targets, like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a strike last month. If and when Saleh leaves power, it's possible that the resulting instability could allow terrorist groups to flourish. Not to mention, Yemen faces a whole host of economic problems, and as a fragmented society, the people there will have a chaotic time trying to form a unified post-Saleh government.