Clashes between Syrian regime and opposition forces near center of Damascus
The Syrian army has reportedly regained control over some eastern Damascus suburbs that have seen large anti-government protests. The Free Syria Army had recently moved in toward the capital after hitherto only holding a strong provincial presence in Homs, Hama, and Deraa. According to activists a major troop and tank deployment began on Saturday and came within 3 miles of the center of Damascus by Sunday, prompting an activist to refer to the situation as “urban war” and others to say it is the fiercest fighting seen around the capital to date in the 10-month uprising. Fighting also raged over the weekend in both the northern and southern provinces resulting in the deaths of up to 80 people. Additionally, there were over 50 military funerals over the weekend held for regime security forces killed in the conflict. The upsurge in violence comes a day after the Arab League announced a suspension of their recently extended observer mission, a decision prompted when the Syrian government “chose the option of escalation.” Russia condemned the decision saying, “We would like to know why they are treating such a useful instrument this way.” Arab League representatives will meet with the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday seeking support for the Arab peace plan. Russia however opposes the plan, saying the demand for President Bashar al-Assad to step down is “absolutely unforgiveable” and may use its veto to block a resolution.
- Iraqi officials have expressed “outrage” over U.S. drone surveillance used to protect U.S. personnel and property, calling it an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.
- Egypt’s military rulers will meet with an advisory council to consider a power transfer earlier than the stated June deadline. Meanwhile, voting began for the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament.
- Yemen’s outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh has arrived with immunity in the United States for medical treatment, but has vowed to return to Yemen for the swearing in of the new president.
- A U.N. IAEA delegation arrived in Iran Sunday to begin a three-day investigation into alleged nuclear weapon development.
- Iraq’s Sunni Iraqiyya bloc has ended its boycott on parliament spurred by the arrest warrant issued for Vice President Hashemi, making room for political talks and easing tensions.
- Hamas political head Khaled Meshaal held talks with Jordanian King Abdullah in his first official visit since the party’s leadership was expelled in 1999.
Egyptians enjoy the sunset at al-Azhar Park in Cairo on January 29, 2012 (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
‘Rethinking entrepreneurship in the Middle East’ (Mehrunisa Qayyum, Sada Journal)
“Restrictive legislation is one of the key obstacles to the emergence of a culture of entrepreneurship in many Arab countries. According to the World Bank’s 2012 “ease of doing business” ranking, the regional average is 93 out of 183 countries. Egypt and Jordan are ranked 110 and 96 respectively. “Although Egypt came in 21st for “starting a business” which includes things like registering with the government and signing up to pay taxes, it scored very low on essential needs for conducting business: 101st for obtaining electricity, 147th for enforcing contracts and 154th for handling construction permits. Jordan was 96th overall and 95th for “ease in starting a business.””
‘Can Muslim states demilitarize politics?’ (Shahid Javed Burki, The Daily Star)
“Since the Arab Spring began, four long-established regimes have been removed, while others are under increasing pressure, giving ordinary Arabs hope that their demands will no longer be ignored, and that those who govern will be mindful of citizens’ needs. But that – the real revolution – will happen only when true representatives of citizens, rather than the military, begin to set their countries’ political course.”
‘Will Israel really attack Iran?’ (Gary Sick, Gary’s Choices)
“Like virtually all other commentators on this issue, Bergman slides over the fact that the IAEA consistently reports that Iran has diverted none of its uranium to military purposes. Like others, he focuses on the recent IAEA report, which was the most detailed to date in discussing Iran’s suspected experiments with military implications; but like others, he fails to mention that the suspect activity took place seven or more years ago and there is no reliable evidence that it has resumed. A problem, yes; an imminent threat, no.”