French authorities have corned the suspected gunman in Monday’s killing of three children and a rabbi outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. The police identified the suspect as Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old Muslim citizen of France of Algeria descent. About 300 police officers have cordoned off an apartment building where they traced Merah. The suspect has been participating in negotiations with the police and said he will turn himself in this afternoon. He told negotiators that he belonged to al Qaeda and that the attack was conducted in retaliation for the killing of Palestinian children and French military intervention abroad. Authorities also suspect Maher for two other attacks in which three soldiers were killed.
Syrian opposition activists reported that Syrian forces advanced on the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Irbin using tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns in a violent offensive on renewed Free Syrian Army attacks on regime forces. Additionally, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, mortar fire continued for a second day in the Khalidiya district of Homs, after the deaths of 14 people on Tuesday. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the escalating violence an "extremely dangerous crisis" and said that international diplomats could not predict "how events will unfold" in Syria. Russia, a traditional ally of Syria that has blocked U.N. resolutions and international efforts to quell Syrian violence, came out with harsh criticism on the Syrian regime on Tuesday. In a radio broadcast, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and…is making very many mistakes." However, Lavrov maintained opposition to western calls for Bashar al-Assad to resign, saying it is "unrealistic."
- The United States has exempted Japan and 10 EU countries from sanctions for buying oil from Iran, but has not included major importers — China, India, and South Korea.
- An al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s wave of bombings in Iraq that killed about 50 people, intending to disrupt security plans for next week’s Arab League summit.
- The Jerusalem based human rights group B’Tselem reported that the number of civilians killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rose sharply in 2011.
Arguments & Analysis
‘Syrian Kurdish cards’ (Denise Natali, Middle East Report online)
"Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) — a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence. Whether or not the Asad regime falls, these cross-border power plays reinforce the increasing regionalization of the Kurdish problem and its destabilizing potential."
‘The only option Iran’ (Carl Bildt & Erkki Tuomioja, International Herald Tribune)
"A military attack against Iran risks igniting a period of confrontation across the region with consequences that no one can fully predict. The turmoil could end up producing several nuclear-armed states in what is probably the most volatile area of the world. And there could be war both with and within the Muslim world. The argument is not only about giving diplomacy a chance. It is about recognizing that diplomacy is the only alternative for those seeking a lasting and sustainable solution to the Iran nuclear issue and peace in the region. The other options are recipes for war and in all probability a nuclear-armed Iran."
”Liberal Zionism’: A contradiction in terms’ (Yousef Munayyer, Zion Square — The Daily Beast)
"The fact that Beinart’s call for a boycott of Israeli settlement products is on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times is indicative of a changing discourse-and this is a good thing. Nonetheless, the discourse clearly has a long way to go. "Liberal Zionists" may find safety and comfort in putting off confronting the irreconcilability of liberalism and Zionism for another generation, but they aren’t doing the Palestinians or themselves any favors."
–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey