The Middle East Channel

Homs under fire as Syria agrees to Arab League peace plan

Homs under fire as Syria agrees to Arab League peace plan

Homs came under heavy fire as the Syrian government agreed to Arab League peace plan

Violence in Syria has continued a day after Bashar al-Assad’s regime agreed to the Arab League’s peace initiative as tanks with heavy artillery opened fire in a built up area of Homs killing at least five people. Qatar’s Foreign Minister announced Syria’s acceptance of the Arab League’s initiative at an emergency meeting to discuss the situation on Wednesday in Cairo. In accordance with the Arab League plan, the Syrian government committed to withdraw the army from cities and residential areas and end all violence against protesters, release all political prisoners, and ease restrictions on media. It also agreed to begin talks with the opposition within the next two weeks. Even prior to yesterday’s attack, the opposition was skeptical. A U.S. based member of the Syrian National Council called the agreement by the Assad regime merely “an attempt to buy more time.” However, a political analyst at the Lebanese American University of Beirut said it would take time to judge if the intensity of violence is decreasing. Sami Baroudi said, “You can’t simply turn things off. If there is going to be a withdrawal of the army … that cannot take place within hours.”

Headlines  

  • Rescue efforts saved nearly all 1,200 passengers on an Egyptian-Jordanian ferry that caught fire on the Red Sea.
  • Two bombs targeting Sunni militia killed six people and injured dozens in the Iraqi city of Baquba meanwhile three motorcycle bombs detonated near cafes killing 12 people and wounding 70.
  • The Israeli navy says it will “take any necessary action” to prevent the entry of an Irish and a Canadian ship that set off from Turkey aiming to “break the siege” on Gaza.
  • After recent Israeli ballistic missile tests, a Haaretz-Dialog poll found that Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) are almost evenly split on an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
  • As the International Atomic Energy Agency prepared to release information about Iran’s nuclear program, President Obama said pressure must be maintained on Iran. 

Daily Snapshot

Pro-democracy protesters, holding a huge pre-Baath era Syrian flag, demonstrate against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime outside the Arab league headquarters in Cairo where a ministerial meeting was held on November 2, 2011 to discuss the situation in Syria, ruled by Assad’s Baath party since 1963. Damascus fully accepted a plan to end nearly eight months of bloodshed, according to a League official (MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images).

Arguments & Analysis

‘The overblown Islamist threat’ (Marwan Muasher, International Herald Tribune)

“Over the next few years, other parties will have a chance to develop in Tunisia and Islamists are likely to get a lower percentage of the vote next time around. They will start winning votes in relation to their actual strength on the ground. While they may be part of leading coalitions in various countries, they are unlikely to gain power outright in any country. In order to ensure peaceful political competition between Islamists and other political parties, the new Arab democracies need to enshrine two principles in their new constitutions: pluralism and a peaceful political landscape that is free of armed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Pluralism would ensure that neither Islamists nor anyone else could come to power and then deny the right of political organization to others. And peaceful transfers of power are essential for any stable democracy. Countries in transition have no choice but to open up the political system. Excluding and marginalizing Islamists out of fear will only strengthen their appeal.”

‘Arm sales to Bahrain under the scanner’ (Joel Beinin, Al Jazeera English)

“In the months before the protests began in February, the US sold more than $200m in weapons and equipment to Bahrain, including $760,000 for firearms. Some of the ammunition the military and police fired at non-violent pro-democracy protesters may very well have been made and supplied by the US. In his May Middle East policy address, Obama proclaimed that, “The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.” It remains to be seen whether this applies to residents of Manama and other Arab capitals, where relationships between autocrats and the US government remain reliably stable, and military alliances have historically trumped human rights.”

‘AKP, terrorists, and earthquakes: Turkey’s never-ending Kurdish question’ (Djene Rhys Bajalan, Open Democracy)

“Ultimately, meaningful change will take strong, and more importantly brave, leadership. Such leadership will have to integrate the representatives of Kurdish nationalism into the peace process, while simultaneously selling this to the Turkish public. It is unclear whether the AKP can do this. AKP’s success has been based on its domination of the Turkish centre ground, and if that centre ground is against making concessions to the Kurds, it will be hard for the party to move any further than it has, even if it wants to. While Turkey seems to be, in many ways, closer to a permanent resolution of the Kurdish question than at any time in its history, there is still a long way to go, and the most difficult steps, including making peace with those with whom the state has been at war have yet to be taken. However, the long term benefits for Turkey of peace with the Kurds far outweigh any short term political discomfort.” 

Recent posts on the Channel

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‘Qatar’s ambivalent democratization’ by Justin Gengler