Syria’s security chief dies as violence escalates in Damascus

Security chief Hisham Iktiar died after sustaining injures from Wednesday’s bombing of the national security building in Damascus, which killed three other high profile figures in the Assad regime. Building on the momentum from the attack, opposition forces took control of four border crossings with Iraq and one with Turkey. After six days of heavy ...

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

Security chief Hisham Iktiar died after sustaining injures from Wednesday's bombing of the national security building in Damascus, which killed three other high profile figures in the Assad regime. Building on the momentum from the attack, opposition forces took control of four border crossings with Iraq and one with Turkey. After six days of heavy clashes in Damascus, Syrian forces were reported to have reclaimed the neighborhood of Midan, while the opposition said they had staged a "tactical withdrawal" to avoid civilian deaths. The regime hit the Damascus suburb of Qaboun with rocket fire from helicopters giving warning prior to the attack and causing thousands of residents to flee to Lebanon. Thursday was possibly the deadliest day since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011 with an estimated 310 people reported dead by the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported they had heard that many banks are running out of money. Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said that President Bashar al-Assad had essentially agreed to step down by accepting an international declaration including a transition plan. The Syrian information ministry has agressively denounced the statement saying it was unfounded. Russia and China blocked a third U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria on Thursday which would have imposed sanctions on Syrian authorities and extend a U.N. observer mission set to expire today for 45 more days. The move was strongly condemned by the United States, Britain, Germany, and France, with the White House spokesman Jay Carney saying Russia and China were "on the wrong side of history ... It is a mistake to prop up that regime as it comes to an end."

Headlines  

Bulgaria's interior minister said the suicide bomber responsible for an attack on a bus that killed several Israeli tourists was not Bulgarian. Israel continues to blame Hezbollah. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Egypt's former head of intelligence and briefly vice president, Omar Suleiman, died from a rare disease that affects the heart and kidneys. Kuwait's emir has approved a cabinet formed by recently appointed Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has appointed former ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan as head of Saudi intelligence

Security chief Hisham Iktiar died after sustaining injures from Wednesday’s bombing of the national security building in Damascus, which killed three other high profile figures in the Assad regime. Building on the momentum from the attack, opposition forces took control of four border crossings with Iraq and one with Turkey. After six days of heavy clashes in Damascus, Syrian forces were reported to have reclaimed the neighborhood of Midan, while the opposition said they had staged a "tactical withdrawal" to avoid civilian deaths. The regime hit the Damascus suburb of Qaboun with rocket fire from helicopters giving warning prior to the attack and causing thousands of residents to flee to Lebanon. Thursday was possibly the deadliest day since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011 with an estimated 310 people reported dead by the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported they had heard that many banks are running out of money. Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said that President Bashar al-Assad had essentially agreed to step down by accepting an international declaration including a transition plan. The Syrian information ministry has agressively denounced the statement saying it was unfounded. Russia and China blocked a third U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria on Thursday which would have imposed sanctions on Syrian authorities and extend a U.N. observer mission set to expire today for 45 more days. The move was strongly condemned by the United States, Britain, Germany, and France, with the White House spokesman Jay Carney saying Russia and China were "on the wrong side of history … It is a mistake to prop up that regime as it comes to an end."

Headlines  

  • Bulgaria’s interior minister said the suicide bomber responsible for an attack on a bus that killed several Israeli tourists was not Bulgarian. Israel continues to blame Hezbollah.
  • According to the Cleveland Clinic, Egypt’s former head of intelligence and briefly vice president, Omar Suleiman, died from a rare disease that affects the heart and kidneys.
  • Kuwait’s emir has approved a cabinet formed by recently appointed Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah.
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has appointed former ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan as head of Saudi intelligence

Arguments & Analysis

Time for Hezbollah to Quit Lebanese Government‘ (Ibrahim al-Amin, Al-Akhbar English)

"There’s no longer any point in the resistance remaining in government. The government is no longer good for anything. Even the argument that people would be worse off if there was no government at all does not hold. No good will come from the current government surviving. There’s no longer any point in the resistance remaining in any branch of government, not even in parliament. It’s impossible for it to play a legislative role given the weird and wondrous partnership between the executive and legislative establishments."

The power of the ultra-Orthodox‘ (The Economist)

"Kadima, the centrist party that has the most seats in Israel’s parliament, has left Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition government just ten weeks after joining it. This makes it far less likely that sweeping legislation will be enacted to draft haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men into the army. Haredim comprise 13% of draft-age Jewish youngsters, but their numbers are rising sharply: they make up more than a quarter of all Jewish children in their first year at primary school. It is an explosive issue."

Where Obama Shines‘ (David Brooks, The New York Times)

"In this environment, you don’t need big, bold visionaries. You need leaders who will pay minute attention to the unique details and fleeting properties of each region’s specific circumstances. You need people who can improvise, shift and play it by ear. Obama, Clinton and the rest are well suited to these sorts of tasks. Obama has shown a good ability to combine a realist, power-politics mind-set with a warm appreciation of democracy and human rights. Early in his term, he responded poorly to the street marches in Tehran. But his administration has embraced a freedom agenda more aggressively since then, responding fairly well to the Arab Spring, rejecting those who wanted to stand by the collapsing dictatorships and using American power in a mostly successful humanitarian intervention in Libya."

Towards the endgame‘ (The Economist)

"Mr Assad may hang on for months, or the bombing may tip the regime into a swift decline. Either way, now is the time to start preparing for the day when Syria is at last rid of him. Syria after Mr Assad will be a danger to its own people and its neighbours. Sectarian bloodletting is one risk, loose chemical weapons another, tides of refugees a third. Syria could become the focus of rivalry between Iran, Turkey and the Arab world. Violence could suck in Israel or spill over into Lebanon. The world cannot eliminate these dangers, but it can mitigate them. Money and planning are essential to help found a new government. Regional diplomacy, with Turkey and the Arab League to the fore, will be needed to steady nerves. Peace-keepers and monitors may have a part. This calls above all for presidential diplomacy from America. In election season Barack Obama’s thoughts may be elsewhere; but this dangerous place needs some attention."

–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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