Fierce clashes reported in Damascus as special envoy Kofi Annan visits Moscow

Fierce clashes in Damascus have continued for the second day as the International Red Cross classified the conflict as a civil war. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces and opposition forces have been exchanging fire in the Tadamon neighborhood, as residents flee. Troops and armored vehicles have moved into Midan, ...

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

Fierce clashes in Damascus have continued for the second day as the International Red Cross classified the conflict as a civil war. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces and opposition forces have been exchanging fire in the Tadamon neighborhood, as residents flee. Troops and armored vehicles have moved into Midan, a strategic Sunni Muslim neighborhood. Fighting has been sporadic in the outskirts of Syria's capital throughout the course of the 17-month conflict. However, President Bashar al-Assad has maintained strong control over the center of Damascus. The escalation came after the International Red Cross official qualified the Syria conflict as a civil war. This distinction will subject both sides to the terms of the Geneva Convention, under which they can be tried for war crimes. A United Nations investigation into what was termed a massacre of civilians in the Hama province village of Tremseh, found that the attacks mainly targeted armed opposition fighters and activists. The death toll, first reported at over 200 people, is now estimated at about 100. International pressure on the Assad regime has continued; Morocco has recently expelled Syria's ambassador. United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Moscow on Monday to urge for support from Russia for a political transition in Syria. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West of blackmail saying if Russia did not back a draft resolution including sanctions, it would "refuse to extend the mandate of the observer mission." The U.N. observer mission is set to expire on Friday, July 20.

Headlines  

Fierce clashes in Damascus have continued for the second day as the International Red Cross classified the conflict as a civil war. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces and opposition forces have been exchanging fire in the Tadamon neighborhood, as residents flee. Troops and armored vehicles have moved into Midan, a strategic Sunni Muslim neighborhood. Fighting has been sporadic in the outskirts of Syria’s capital throughout the course of the 17-month conflict. However, President Bashar al-Assad has maintained strong control over the center of Damascus. The escalation came after the International Red Cross official qualified the Syria conflict as a civil war. This distinction will subject both sides to the terms of the Geneva Convention, under which they can be tried for war crimes. A United Nations investigation into what was termed a massacre of civilians in the Hama province village of Tremseh, found that the attacks mainly targeted armed opposition fighters and activists. The death toll, first reported at over 200 people, is now estimated at about 100. International pressure on the Assad regime has continued; Morocco has recently expelled Syria’s ambassador. United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Moscow on Monday to urge for support from Russia for a political transition in Syria. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West of blackmail saying if Russia did not back a draft resolution including sanctions, it would "refuse to extend the mandate of the observer mission." The U.N. observer mission is set to expire on Friday, July 20.

Headlines  

  • After meeting with Egyptian officials in Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will focus on Egypt’s transition in her first trip to meet with Israeli officials in almost two years.
  • The UAE has opened an oil pipeline that will circumvent the Straight of Hormuz, as threats from Iran to close the vital waterway have increased.
  • As part of a negotiation to end a Palestinian detainee’s hunger strike, Gazan families will visit relatives in Israeli jails for the first time in over five years.
  • Libya’s Olympic committee president, Nabil Elalem, was reportedly abducted in Tripoli.

Arguments & Analysis 

Iraq war will haunt west, says Briton who advised US military’ (Nick Hopkins, The Guardian)

"A British woman who worked at the top of the US military during the most troubled periods of the Iraq war has said she fears the west has yet to see how some Muslims brought up in the last decade will seek revenge for the "war on terror". Speaking for the first time about her experiences, Emma Sky also questioned why no officials on either side of the Atlantic have been held to account for the failures in planning before the invasion."

The case for recognising a limited Iranian nuke programme’ (Loren White, Al Jazeera English)

"Recognition of Iran’s nuclear programme would not be nearly as big a concession as it may appear. For the P5+1 would not be offering carte blanche recognition, but would require Iran to cap enrichment at five per cent and agree to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), or a similar arrangement, to create the necessary safeguards and transparency to assuage international concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Additionally, Iran’s right to enrich for civilian purposes is something that is already guaranteed by its having signed the main text of the NPT. It has only been Iran’s unwillingness to co-operate with the IAEA and fully demonstrate that their programme does not have a military component that has thus far prevented them from enjoying these rights."

The Decline of American Influence‘ (Steven A. Cook, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

"As much as official Washington hopes it can muddle through Egypt’s prolonged transition with its interests intact, the American position in Egypt will change and it will wane. And any side deal-which would have the elected civilian government tending to domestic issues while Egypt’s generals ensure U.S. strategic interests-will prove unsustainable. Washington must fully come to terms with a new and perhaps democratic Egypt."

–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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