Mideast news brief: 200 Syrian officials quit in protest of regime’s crackdown
200 Syrian officials quit in protest of regime’s crackdown Some 200 Syrian officials and members of the regime’s Baath party have resigned in protest of the violent crackdown against demonstrations. The members are from the southern Hauran region — which includes the city of Dara’a — and left office due to the Baath party leadership’s ...
200 Syrian officials quit in protest of regime's crackdown
200 Syrian officials quit in protest of regime’s crackdown
Some 200 Syrian officials and members of the regime’s Baath party have resigned in protest of the violent crackdown against demonstrations. The members are from the southern Hauran region — which includes the city of Dara’a — and left office due to the Baath party leadership’s involvement with “crimes of the Syrian intelligence agencies.” Meanwhile, the city of Dara’a where protests against the regime began six weeks ago, has been occupied by troops for days; residents are reportedly running out of food, water and medicine. “We have no electricity, no water, no telephones and no bread,” said resident Abdullah Abazeid to the Associated Press. “The situation is terrible.”
The crackdown, which has now killed at least 500 Syrians, continues as a divided UN security council failed to agree to a European and U.S.-backed statement which condemned the regime’s violence against civilians. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Alexander Pankin, said that a “real threat to regional security could arise from outside interference in Syria’s domestic situation.” Russia, along with Lebanon, India and 12 other members of the security council opposed the draft statement.
- Fatah and Hamas unveil a unity agreement; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Fatah will continue to handle Mideast peace talks in unity cabinet.
- Bahrain’s military court convicts four Shia protesters to death for protesting.
- Turkey sends a high-level delegation to Syria for reform talks.
- U.S. gives limited support to rebel government in Libya as suspected NATO strike kills 10 Libyan rebels in Misurata.
Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed (R) shares a laugh with Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq (L) as they prepare to shake hands after a joint press conference in Cairo on April 27, 2011. Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah reached an ‘understanding’ to set up a transitional unity government and to hold elections, prompting a swift warning from Israel (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
‘Iranian and Saudi competition in Gulf’ (Anthony Cordesman, USIP)
“Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran are complicated by demands for reform in Saudi Arabia and its own sectarian divisions. The kingdom is particularly concerned about a potential Iranian effort to exploit the Shiite minority in its own oil-rich Eastern Province. It is unclear how serious this threat really is and how active Iran has been beyond occasional rhetoric. Shiites in the Eastern Province are estimated to number between 1.1 million and 2.5 million, although the lower range of estimates seems more likely. Saudi Arabia has spent some three decades building up the Sunni population in the province and ensuring that Sunni workers dominate in the petroleum sector. Moreover, Saudi Shiites are Arab and have not shown much support for predominantly Persian Iran or its concept of a supreme religious leader.”
‘A regional response to Syria’ (Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark)
“The core of the problem is that on its own, the U.S. has very limited leverage over Damascus or events on the ground in Syria. The administration has already done most of the few concrete things which have been suggested by its critics, including sharpened rhetoric, convening an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, and preparing targeted sanctions. But since Syria has long been an American adversary in the region, such efforts have limited impact. Rhetoric demanding political change in Damascus will largely fall on deaf ears since most people in the region already assume that the U.S. supports regime change in Syria, and wouldn’t have the impact of similar statements about Mubarak, Qaddafi, or Saleh. The U.S. already has a daunting array of sanctions in place against Damascus, leaving it little room for tightening. In short, even the strongest concrete policy proposals on offer are not likely to have much effect on Syria’s course.”
‘Tsunami at Israel’s edge’ (Steve Clemons, The Washington Note)
“Now, Fatah and Hamas are reconciling. America and some other nations will no doubt threaten to withhold aid and support — making themselves less relevant to the decisions made by Palestinian leaders but also creating some pressure for them. But this is not an age where Europe and the US are calling all the shots any longer. In this case, the boutique rich nations of the GCC, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, and China, even India — may emerge as the new lifeline of financial and political support for a reorganized and somewhat repurposed Palestine. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one person in Israel who could have really sold a real deal on a two state solution to his people. But he seems to have decided against this route — and now we are seeing the political marketplace reaction to his and his government’s intransigence and their lack of vision about new long term political and security relationships in Israel’s neighborhood. The tsunami that Israel will need to deal with may be here — and it’s vital that Netanyahu and others recalculate their game plan while this wave of change is sweeping through the region.”
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