Arab League monitor mandate in Syria ends
The mandate for the month-long Arab League observer mission to Syria is set to expire today. The head of the mission is expected to present a report on the observations and status of violence associated with the government crackdown at an Arab League meeting on Saturday. Although the official mandate will expire, there are provisions for an extension given the consent of both Syria and the Arab League. While the Syrian government has welcomed an additional month extension, the Syrian opposition has called for greater action and for a U.N. Security Council intervention. The mission has been highly criticized as ineffective and even as a means for President Bashar al-Assad to buy time and continue regime violence. Over 600 people are reported to have been killed since the beginning of the observer mission, including 33 children, according to Human Rights Watch. Russia, a longtime Syrian ally, said it is committed, along with China, to block any U.N. military intervention.
- Iran warned its Arab neighbors not to get “dragged into a dangerous position” by allying with the United States as tensions increase over sanctions and Iran’s nuclear development.
- Ayad Allawi, leader of the Sunni-supported Iraqiya bloc, will end a parliament and cabinet boycott if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agrees to a dialogue and honors a power-sharing deal.
- Yemeni militants, with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, said they will withdraw from the town of Radda if several prisoners are released
- Settlers clashed with Israeli forces during the dismantling of an illegal outpost of six wooden huts outside the Mitzpe Yericho settlement.
- A French Senate panel rejected legislation that would make it illegal to deny Armenian “genocide,” however the bill will come up for a vote by the full Senate on January 23.
- In a controversial trial, Moroccan anti-monarchist rapper, El-Haqed, was convicted of assault in a case many consider a testament to the lack of real change brought about my the country’s new consitution and government.
Thousands of Turkish people march to the offices of Armenian newspaper ‘Agos’ during a commemoration ceremony for slain journalist Hrant Din ,in Istanbul, on January 19, 2012. Dink, one of the most prominent voices of Turkey’s shrinking Armenian community, was killed by a gunman on January 19, 2007. The 52-year-old Dink, a prominent member of Turkey’s tiny Armenian community, campaigned for reconciliation but was hated by Turkish nationalists for calling the World War I massacres of Armenians a genocide (MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
‘Post-BICI Bahrain: between reform and stagnation’ (Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen & Elham Fakhro, Open Democracy)
“Bahrain finds itself poised at a profound juncture over the next month. It can either move toward deep and lasting changes to the balance of power between state and society, or the regime will have to rely on the use of force against an increasingly determined opposition. The challenge for the government is overcoming memories of the previous cycle of repression (during the 1994-99 uprising) followed by partial promises of reform (2001-10). The longer the old elite remains untouched by high-level calls to account for the abuses of power over the past year, the harder it will be to convince sceptics of the government’s good faith.”
‘Israel’s Orthodox Jews debate mainstream involvement’ (Matthew Bell, The World)
“The Haredim — as Israelis refer to the Ultra-Orthodox — only make up about 10 percent of the population. But it is one of the fastest-growing segments of society, due in large part to high birth rates. There are a whole host of issues at stake, from military service to work force participation to gender segregation in public places. The Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim is an Ultra-Orthodox stronghold. It’s a place where the Israeli police tend to keep a low profile. An example of why came on Sunday. As uniformed police officers moved into the neighborhood to arrest several suspects on tax evasion charges, dozens of men dressed in the traditional Ultra-Orthodox style — long black coats, big beards and black hats — confronted the officers in the street. Scuffles broke out when Haredi tried to block traffic to protest the arrests.”
‘Jordan’s sphere of influence’ (Suzanne Kelly, CNN)
“But exercising one’s influence can be a tall order for a small country in the midst of a volatile neighborhood. Just look at Jordan’s neighbors: Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. In Syria, Arab League monitors have failed to stop the killing of those who are rising up against President Bashar al-Assad. King Abdullah was the first Arab leader to call for the Syrian president to step down and the monarch still isn’t overly hopeful that change will come anytime soon. “I don’t see Syria going through many changes. I think what you’re seeing in Syria today, you will continue to see for a while longer,” he said. “It’s a very complicated puzzle and there is no simple solution. If you can imagine Iraq being a simple solution to move Iraq into the light a couple of years ago, and it’s different in Libya, so it has everybody stumped and I don’t think anybody has a clear answer on what to do about Syria.””