Mideast news brief: Syrian army tanks shell the city of Homs
Syrian army tanks shell the city of Homs Army tanks have shelled a residential district in Syria’s third largest city, Homs. Several witnesses say the attack on the district of Bab Amro began in the early morning hours; the regime insists it is pursuing “armed terrorist gangs” and that it has retrieved arms and ammunition ...
Syrian army tanks shell the city of Homs
Army tanks have shelled a residential district in Syria's third largest city, Homs. Several witnesses say the attack on the district of Bab Amro began in the early morning hours; the regime insists it is pursuing "armed terrorist gangs" and that it has retrieved arms and ammunition in addition to 150 motorbikes that "terrorists" were using to launch attacks. "The situation is so bad this morning," said Abu Haydar, a resident there, who spoke to the New York Times by telephone. "It's been continuous shelling since Sunday." Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is calling on President Bashar al-Assad to end the brutal crackdown. "I urge president Assad to heed the call of the people for reform and freedom and desist from the mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and to cooperate with the human rights monitors," he said to a news conference in Geneva. "I am disappointed that the United Nations has not been granted access yet to Dara'a and other places." At least 10,000 protesters have been detained in the past several days as the regime's mass arrest campaign continues.
Syrian army tanks shell the city of Homs
Army tanks have shelled a residential district in Syria’s third largest city, Homs. Several witnesses say the attack on the district of Bab Amro began in the early morning hours; the regime insists it is pursuing “armed terrorist gangs” and that it has retrieved arms and ammunition in addition to 150 motorbikes that “terrorists” were using to launch attacks. “The situation is so bad this morning,” said Abu Haydar, a resident there, who spoke to the New York Times by telephone. “It’s been continuous shelling since Sunday.” Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is calling on President Bashar al-Assad to end the brutal crackdown. “I urge president Assad to heed the call of the people for reform and freedom and desist from the mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and to cooperate with the human rights monitors,” he said to a news conference in Geneva. “I am disappointed that the United Nations has not been granted access yet to Dara’a and other places.” At least 10,000 protesters have been detained in the past several days as the regime’s mass arrest campaign continues.
- President Obama will soon deliver a speech to Muslim World to renew Muslim outreach.
- Jordan and Morocco will join the Gulf Cooperation Council.
- Germany, European partners summon Syrian ambassadors and threaten more sanctions.
- Al Qaeda leader in Yemen vows ‘greater and worse’ attacks on U.S. following Bin Laden killing.
- Iran postpones trial for U.S. hikers detained on espionage charges.
- Document reveals Israel stripped 140,000 Palestinians of residency rights.
Palestinians wave their national flag during a rally to support the political unity deal between the Hamas movement, which rules in the Gaza Strip, and its West Bank rival party Fatah, on May 11, 2011 in Gaza City (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
‘What do Israel’s leaders really think about Iran?’ (Tony Karon, Time)
“Barak and Bibi reportedly agree is on maintaining the option — and the belief, in the West that Israel maintains the option– of unilateral military action. (The Iranians don’t believe that Israel would bomb them, but they do believe that the Israelis are waging a sustained covert war, through computer viruses and assassination of scientists, against Iran’s program. If so, that would have been Dagan’s department.) That belief keeps pressure on Western capitals to do more to pressure Tehran. And it also helps the Israelis put Iran, rather than the Palestinians, at the top of the agenda when the U.S. and other Western countries are dealing with Israel. The Israelis may even be feeling a heightened sense of urgency in putting Iran back on the table because the Arab Spring has, in fact, weakened the U.S.-Israeli position on Iran — and has helped drive what Barak warned was a “diplomatic tsunami” heading for Israel in September, in the form of diplomatic support for Palestinian statehood regardless of Israel’s preferences. Where President Hosni Mubarak, for example, had been a pivotal Arab figure in the U.S.-led campaign against Iran and also against other enemies of Israel such as Hamas, the regime that replaced him, more mindful of Arab public opinion, has moved to normalize ties with Tehran and with Hamas.
‘Why Assad will rise again — then fall’ (David Lesch, Financial Times)
“For now he has withdrawn into a sectarian fortress, apparently intent on maintaining his minority Alawite sect’s hold on power. At critical times in his presidency, he has given in to the hardliners, particularly the Alawite generals who dominate the security apparatus. So how can he manoeuvre his way back to acceptability? As the crackdown continues, fearing what might happen in Syria and the region should he fall. He seems to be using it to buy time to quell the uprising. Should the regime survive, I expect he will try to engage in some level of reform, as the generals return to their barracks. But I fear he will continue to focus on economic reform, only throwing protesters some bones of political reform that will fall far short of their demands, and, possibly, draw closer to. If this only gets him back to where he was before the uprisings intensified, he will probably be satisfied. A classic authoritarian state is, after all, the regime’s default condition. Corruption, institutional inertia and a repressive apparatus ensure that its instinct is to recoil into survival mode. Mr Assad’s hope will be that repression will stamp out the fervour that removed the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. As in the past, he will think he has made significant concessions, but this is a different Middle East today. The momentum of change is harder to reverse in the long term. He may confront a more determined opposition sooner than he realises. He thought Syria was different but he was wrong. The true meaning of the Arab spring is that people are weary of autocrats. The west may for reasons of realpolitik have to pretend to accept his reforms but his people will not. For now he survives. But he is not leading and, eventually, he will join the list of former Arab dictators.”
‘Arab Spring has yet to alter region’s strategic balance’ (Paul Salem, LA Times)
“Egypt’s and Tunisia’s future foreign policies are more likely to resemble Turkey’s in becoming more independent while remaining allied with the West. And Iran’s soft power has decreased as its regime looks increasingly repressive and new models of revolutionary success have emerged in Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Arab world. Turkey, for its part, bungled the opportunity to take advantage of this historic shift to bolster its influence in the Arab world. The Arab uprisings are effectively calling for the Arab world to be more like Turkey: democratic, with a vibrant civil society, political pluralism, secularism alongside Islam, and a productive and fairly balanced economy. However, after expressing clear support for Egyptian protesters, Turkey has hedged its bets in Libya and Syria.Turkey has over $15 billion in business contracts with Moammar Kadafi’s Libya and has built a close relationship with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Turkey’s foreign policy of “zero problems” with neighbors is becoming harder to implement as peoples and governments in the neighborhood are increasingly on opposite sides. Although Arab public opinion has held Turkey in very high esteem in past years, recent events have tarnished that image. This could have been Turkey’s moment in the Middle East; the moment was lost.”
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