In his first interview in months, Syrian President Assad spoke to Russian State TV

Russian state television, Russiya 24, broadcast a rare interview on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad said he faced no real domestic opposition and that violence in the country has been caused entirely by foreign-backed terrorists. He stated, "We have an acute problem with terrorism." Assad continued, "The political course will not free us ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Russian state television, Russiya 24, broadcast a rare interview on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad said he faced no real domestic opposition and that violence in the country has been caused entirely by foreign-backed terrorists. He stated, "We have an acute problem with terrorism." Assad continued, "The political course will not free us from terror." The United States and other Western governments have identified an al Qaeda presence in Syria, and some Islamist fighters have entered the country. However, a western diplomat said, "The Syrians have tried to make a big thing recently about the influx of foreign fighter but the majority of serious security problems are still home-grown." Assad claimed the West "released a large amount of false information." Assad denied that there had been a boycott of the May 7 parliamentary elections, despite videos that showed many polling stations in flashpoint cities such as Homs, Hama, and Daraa practically shut down. Meanwhile, the six U.N. monitors that were caught in crossfire in Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday were rescued on Wednesday by another U.N. patrol. A team of observers were evacuated from the Shammas neighborhood of Homs when government troops raided the area. Rami Abdel Rahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "15 civilians were found summarily executed" after the raid.  

Headlines  

Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on several suspected armed Palestinians on the Gaza border, injuring eight people. A Gazan medical spokesman said the Palestinians were farmers. Yemeni forces killed 16 suspected militants in Abyan. Meanwhile President Obama issued an executive order allowing sanctions on those "who threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen." Eight people were wounded on Wednesday and one person killed and five injured early Thursday morning in clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli spurred by the Syrian conflict. A sanctions monitoring panel delivered a report to the U.N. Security Council finding Iran has been making illegal arms shipments over the past year, with two to Syria and one to Afghanistan. King Abdullah II of Jordan ordered an investigation into abuse allegations of private care homes after a report released by the BBC Arabic.

Russian state television, Russiya 24, broadcast a rare interview on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad said he faced no real domestic opposition and that violence in the country has been caused entirely by foreign-backed terrorists. He stated, "We have an acute problem with terrorism." Assad continued, "The political course will not free us from terror." The United States and other Western governments have identified an al Qaeda presence in Syria, and some Islamist fighters have entered the country. However, a western diplomat said, "The Syrians have tried to make a big thing recently about the influx of foreign fighter but the majority of serious security problems are still home-grown." Assad claimed the West "released a large amount of false information." Assad denied that there had been a boycott of the May 7 parliamentary elections, despite videos that showed many polling stations in flashpoint cities such as Homs, Hama, and Daraa practically shut down. Meanwhile, the six U.N. monitors that were caught in crossfire in Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday were rescued on Wednesday by another U.N. patrol. A team of observers were evacuated from the Shammas neighborhood of Homs when government troops raided the area. Rami Abdel Rahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "15 civilians were found summarily executed" after the raid.  

Headlines  

  • Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on several suspected armed Palestinians on the Gaza border, injuring eight people. A Gazan medical spokesman said the Palestinians were farmers.
  • Yemeni forces killed 16 suspected militants in Abyan. Meanwhile President Obama issued an executive order allowing sanctions on those "who threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen."
  • Eight people were wounded on Wednesday and one person killed and five injured early Thursday morning in clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli spurred by the Syrian conflict.
  • A sanctions monitoring panel delivered a report to the U.N. Security Council finding Iran has been making illegal arms shipments over the past year, with two to Syria and one to Afghanistan.
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan ordered an investigation into abuse allegations of private care homes after a report released by the BBC Arabic.

Arguments and Analysis

‘Gates: Israeli Strike on Iran ‘May End Up In A Much Larger Middle East Conflict" (Ali Gharib, ThinkProgress Security)

"The former Secretary of Defense to the George W. Bush and Obama administrations Robert Gates said in an interview on CBS aired this morning that getting Iran to give up any potential ambitions to nuclear weapons was the "only good option" for dealing with the nuclear standoff with the West. He warned that an Israeli attack on Iran could spark a regional war. Interviewer Charlie Rose asked Gates about his comment that Iran was the toughest challenge he has faced. Gates suggested, in line with the Obama administration, that a diplomatically negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis was the sole way to deal with the issues without major drawbacks."

‘Early investor in Asia rings the changes’ (Simeon Kerr, Financial Times)

"The so-called New Silk Road continues to fascinate policy makers and analysts as rising Asian economic power seals its imprint on this century. This "east-east" corridor, named after ancient trade routes linking Asia with the Middle East, saw trade volumes quadruple over the past decade. From Chinese tourists shelling out on luxury goods in Dubai to Asian interest in regional oil and petrochemicals, Asia is now writ large into Gulf business plans. The Middle East unit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country’s largest bank, saw lending, deposits and profits all more than double last year amid booming demand for trade financing between the two regions. One of the first Gulf outfits to take seriously the opportunity presented by emerging Asia was Kuwait China Investment Company, formed in 2005 with $300m in capital, including a 15 per cent stake held by Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund"

‘Activists threaten to desert Syrian National Council’ (AFP/NOW Lebanon)

"The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists on the ground in Syria, threatened Thursday to pull out of opposition bloc the Syrian National Council over its "monopolization" of power. The threat came after Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun was reelected head of the exiled coalition in the face of opposition by some members of the secretariat and rules that require the president’s rotation every three months. "The deteriorating situation in the SNC is an impetus for us to take actions, which could begin with a freeze [of LCC membership in the SNC] and end with a withdrawal if errors are not solved and demands for reform go unmet," the LCC said in a statement. These "errors" were "a total absence of consensus between the SNC’s vision and that of the revolutionaries"; "a marginalization of most (LCC) representatives"; and "a monopolization of decision-making by influential members of the executive bureau.""

‘Is U.S. going above and beyond for Israel?’ (Walter Pincus, Washington Post)

"Should the United States put solving Israel’s budget problems ahead of its own? When it comes to defense spending, it appears that the United States already is. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, will meet Thursday in Washington with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to finalize a deal in which the United States will provide an additional $680 million to Israel over three years. The money is meant to help pay for procuring three or four new batteries and interceptors for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket defense program. The funds may also be used for the systems after their deployment, according to the report of the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization bill."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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