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Syria, Yemen opposition warn dictators: You're next

Story highlights

  • "This is a lesson for all dictatorships," a Syrian opposition leader says
  • "I hope Ali Abdullah Saleh is watching the news closely," blogger says of Yemen leader
  • Moammar Gadhafi's death could have ripple efects through the region, Mideast analyst says
  • Yemen and Syria are closer to change than Bahrain and Iran, expert says

Dictators around the Middle East should pay close attention to the fate of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, opposition activists from Syria and Yemen said Thursday as reports of Gadhafi's death flashed across the world.

"This is a lesson for all dictatorships: The clear fate of all who kill his people is to end up under the feet of the nation," said Omar Al-Muqdad, a Syrian opposition activist in exile in Turkey.

View a gallery of leaders caught up in the Arab Spring

The opposition Syrian National Assembly "blesses the Libyan people that got rid of an infamous dictator such as Gadhafi," he said.

He said it would give a push to efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, saying he would suffer "the same fate" if he fell.

Opponents of longtime Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh also drew inspiration from the reports about Gadhafi.

"Whether he was killed or not, I hope Saleh is watching the news closely," Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser said before Gadhafi's death was confirmed by Libya's governing National Transition Council.

She said she hopes the Yemeni opposition will get international support -- if not necessarily the military intervention that NATO gave Libya's revolutionary fighters.

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"The support we need is sanctions against Saleh and boycott of Saleh's regime and acknowledgment of Yemen's (opposition) national council," she said from Sweden, where she fled in the face of threats in Yemen.

"I hope that Ali Abdullah Saleh and his regime learn a lesson from what happened to Gadhafi and his government," said Mohammed Abulahoum, head of Yemen's opposition Justice and Development Party. "Saleh must understand that the only scenario left for him, other than stepping down, is what happened to Gadhafi."

Regional expert David Hartwell agreed that Gadhafi's death could have "ripple effects" in the region, spreading the way the Arab Spring did.

"I think what we've seen in the past is that Tunisia had the effect of emboldening the opposition in Egypt," he said. "That has ripple effects out to Yemen and Libya itself."

Yemen is closer to a change of power than Syria, he said.

"Saleh is already edging toward the door anyway. This could have the effect of pushing him through it," said Hartwell, senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at IHS Global Insight in London.

"Syrians may come to see that Libyans removed a dictator who was completely entrenched," he said, "(but) we're not at that point yet, though there have been defections from the army.

"There are local factors in Syria that are going to make it much more difficult to have an effect -- the middle classes in Syria have yet to really throw their lot in with the opposition," he said.

"The situation is going to go along for the foreseeable future," he said.

Radiating out from countries already in turmoil, more changes could be in store for the Middle East in the next few years, he said.

"Further down the line you may see disturbances in other countries," he said, adding that "Bahrain has been postponed rather than resolved ... Iran, when there are presidential elections in two years -- but for the moment it's Syria and Yemen."

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