The Middle East Channel

Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for massacre of Syrian soldiers

The Islamic State of Iraq, a militant jihadist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for a massacre of nine Iraqi guards and 48 Syrian soldiers who sought respite in Iraq from Syria’s civil war. The massacre is considered one the conflict’s most deadly episodes of cross-border fighting. The U.S. has condemned this attack as ...

AFP/Getty Images/ANWAR AMRO
AFP/Getty Images/ANWAR AMRO

The Islamic State of Iraq, a militant jihadist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for a massacre of nine Iraqi guards and 48 Syrian soldiers who sought respite in Iraq from Syria’s civil war. The massacre is considered one the conflict’s most deadly episodes of cross-border fighting. The U.S. has condemned this attack as an act of "terrorism" because it claims some of the Syrian troops sought medical treatment in Iraq. Meanwhile, Syria’s grand mufti, Sheik Ahmad Badr al-Deen Hassoun, has issued a religious decree urging Syrian parents to enlist their children in the Syrian Army. The grand mufti is a Sunni and also closely linked to the Assad regime. His decree is significant for two reasons: it appeared to call for jihad; and it suggests the Assad regime lacks a sufficient supply of soldiers, prompting concerns that Assad may enforce compulsory service into the armed forces. This speculation is corroborated by reports that the Syrian government is recruiting and training Syrian women to become soldiers in a force named the "Lionesses for National Defense." A video posted to Russia Today’s Arabic channel shows women marching in army fatigues, carrying Kalashnikov rifles, chanting slogans in support of the Syrian regime. Their duties consist largely of checkpoint control.

Headlines

  • According to a United Nations report, a misfired Palestinian rocket was likely responsible for the death of Omar al-Masharawi — the infant son of Jihad al-Masharawi, a BBC journalist. The baby died during fighting in Gaza last November, and his death was initially attributed to an Israeli airstrike.
  • Software used by millions of Iranians to circumvent an Internet filtering system has been banned by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.
  • After drinking tainted homemade alcohol, at least 51 Libyans in Tripoli have died and 378 others have been admitted to a local hospital. The deaths were caused by methanol poisoning.

Arguments and Analysis

The NYT and Obama officials collaborate to prosecute Awlaki after he’s executed (Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian)

"The New York Times and the Obama administration have created a disturbing collaborative pattern that asserted itself again on Sunday with the paper’s long article purporting to describe the events leading up to the execution by the CIA of US citizen Anwar Awlaki. Time and again, the Obama administration shrouds what it does with complete secrecy, and then uses that secrecy to avoid judicial review of its actions and/or compelled statutory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. "Oh, we’re so sorry", says the Obama DOJ, "but we cannot have courts deciding if what we did is legal, nor ordering us to disclose information under FOIA, because these programs are so very secret that any disclosure would seriously jeopardize national security".

But then, senior Obama officials run to the New York Times by the dozens, demand (and receive) anonymity, and then spout all sorts of claims about these very same programs that are designed to justify what the US government has done and to glorify President Obama. The New York Times helpfully shields these officials – who are not blowing any whistles, but acting as government spokespeople – from being identified, and then mindlessly regurgitates their assertions as fact. It’s standard government stenography, administration press releases masquerading as in-depth news articles."

The End of the Two-State Solution: Why the window is closing on Middle-East peace (Ben Birnbaum, The New Republic)

"One Friday evening last November, Mahmoud Abbas made a rare appearance on the popular Israeli TV station, Channel 2. In his boxy suit and tie, the Palestinian president looked every bit his 77 years, his olive skin tinged with gray, his voice soft and whispery. He shifted in his seat with every answer. But when the interviewer, Udi Segal, asked him about his vision for the future of his people, Abbas offered a reminder of why this man was once, and perhaps remains, the great hope of the two-state solution.

"Palestine for me is ’67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," he said. "This is now and forever." Abbas had been born in the town of Safed, which his family fled during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and which is now a part of Israel. Segal asked, did he wish to visit? Abbas raised his eyebrows. "I want to see Safed," he replied quietly. "It’s my right to see it, but not to live there."

Every Israeli viewer would have immediately grasped the significance of that statement. For years, one of the top obstacles to a peace deal has been the "right of return"-the Palestinian demand that some five million refugees and descendants be allowed to go back to their former homes. In Israel, whose population of eight million already includes 1.5 million Arab citizens, the phrase signals nothing less than the demographic destruction of the Jewish state. Among Palestinians, the right of return is sacrosanct. And yet, here was Abbas waving away the idea altogether. With Israeli elections only a couple of months away, it seemed that the Palestinian president had just eliminated one of the longest-standing impediments to a peace deal."

–By Jennifer Parker

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