The Middle East Channel

Syrian ceasefire “relatively respected” as U.N. looks to observer mission

The second day of Syria’s fragile ceasefire appears to have held, although reports emerged of scattered violence. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, violent clashes broke out early on Friday in Khirbel el-Joz, a northwestern village in the Idlib province near the Turkish border. Nonetheless, United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan ...

AFP/Getty images
AFP/Getty images

The second day of Syria’s fragile ceasefire appears to have held, although reports emerged of scattered violence. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, violent clashes broke out early on Friday in Khirbel el-Joz, a northwestern village in the Idlib province near the Turkish border. Nonetheless, United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said that the truce has been "relatively respected." Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders called for mass protests, which are expected after Friday prayers. An advance team of up to 12 U.N. observers are set to enter Syria if given the orders from the U.N. Security Council. The United States has also drafted a resolution that outlines plans for the observer mission, which is expected to come to a vote Friday. Ultimately, Annan’s plan calls for 250 observers, but Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, "The full-fledged mission will take some time to deploy." Syria has said it will accept the monitors who could arrive early next week. Annan’s six-point peace plan includes the right to demonstrate, but the government said protesters must seek permission, and many people are concerned about the presence of troops and tanks in urban and residential areas. World leaders expressed disappointment that the withdrawal, which is stipulated in Annan’s plan, has not yet taken place. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressured President Bashar al-Assad to implement the full plan saying, "The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations. The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime."

Headlines  

  • Iranian and major power officials arrived in Istanbul to prepare for Saturday’s nuclear talks with Western officials hoping to persuade Iran to halt high-grade uranium enrichment.
  • Egypt’s parliament passed a law blocking Mubarak’s top officials from the presidency which would bar former Vice President Omar Suleiman if approved by the military council.
  • Despite protests, the FIA confirmed that the Bahraini Formula 1 Grand Prix will go ahead saying it was "satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place."
  • Yemeni security forces and armed civilians have continued fighting for the fourth day with al Qaeda-linked militants in Lawder in the Abyan province — with the death toll reaching 177. 

Arguments & Analysis

Assad Indigestion‘ (The Economist)

"On the ground in Syria and among diplomats, few rate the chances for Mr Annan’s plan very high. An early trigger for failure may be the Syrian government’s insistence on the right to answer any attacks by the lightly armed rebels, who lack the formal command structure to control every soldier. And while Syrian troops did stop shooting, they did not pull heavy armour out of cities, as the Annan plan demands. But some whisper that the point of the plan is simply to make it more difficult, once it inevitably fails, for Mr Assad’s friends to protect him."

Who do Egypt’s villagers vote for? And why?‘ (Yasmine Moataz Ahmed, Egypt Independent)

"Despite the common perception that Salafis are strict followers of Sharia compared to the Muslim Brotherhood, many of my research participants often talked about Salafis as religiously less strict than the Ikhwan. From the work of Ikwani leaders in the village, the villagers have noticed the strict hierarchy that informs the work of the Brotherhood members on the ground. In other words, the villagers understood the Brotherhood’s adherence to the dictates of the Guidance Bureau, or the Murshid, as an orthodoxy that made the Brotherhood stricter than the Salafis. They often said to me: "How come Ikhwan grassroot leaders all agree on the same things?" An incident that they often referred to is the insistence of Muslim Brotherhood members to force people to pray outside of a mosque, not build by the Brotherhood, during the Eid al-Fitr prayer last September."

A New Breed of Islamist‘ (Ahmed Chara, The National Interest)

"In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the new Islamist elites have only just emerged from years of underground revolutionary activism. By contrast, in Morocco they gradually have been inducted into the mainstream by a watchful government over the course of a generation. Along the way, they have learned about and embraced the logic of consensual rule and civil discourse. Morocco’s Islamists won this year’s elections on an electoral platform of cooperation with the West, tourism and global commerce, a moderate foreign policy and individual rights. They will now be held accountable to an electoral base demanding the fulfillment of these promises. Whether Islamists in other Arab countries prove committed to the same democratic principles is a matter of chance; in Morocco, it’s the outcome of a history of moderation."

— Mary Casey and Jennifer Parker

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