Syrian opposition accuses government of massacre in Daraa province

Syrian opposition activists have accused the government of committing a massacre they say was motivated by revenge. The attack was allegedly in Sanamayn, a town on the strategic highway betweenDamascus, Syria’s capital, and the southern city of Daraa. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces began indiscriminately shelling and shooting ...

AFP/Getty Images/ DIMITAR DILKOFF
AFP/Getty Images/ DIMITAR DILKOFF
AFP/Getty Images/ DIMITAR DILKOFF

Syrian opposition activists have accused the government of committing a massacre they say was motivated by revenge. The attack was allegedly in Sanamayn, a town on the strategic highway betweenDamascus, Syria's capital, and the southern city of Daraa. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces began indiscriminately shelling and shooting in the town on Wednesday, destroying at least 20 houses and killing at least 45 people. One activist claimed some victims had been "summarily executed or stabbed or burned." However, the reports have not been verified. Other violence was reported across Syria including in Homs and Damascus, and according to Syrian activists, a regime aid convoy was ambushed near the suburbs of Hama. Between 125 and 149 people are estimated to have been killed Thursday. Meanwhile, a western diplomat said there is "hard evidence" that chemical weapons were used at least once in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian government requested a U.N. investigation into alleged chemical weapons in Aleppo province in March, but the assembled team of inspectors has been denied access.

Headlines

The United States has slapped sanctions on an Iranian businessman, a Malaysian bank, and a network of companies for providing support to the National Iranian Oil Company. An Israeli court ruled that five "Women of the Wall" detained Thursday were not disturbing the peace, as Israel works to ease tensions between Orthodox and more progressive Jewish worshippers. Egypt's Shura Council approved a revised election law on Thursday for parliamentary polls expected later this year. The law has been sent to the Supreme Constitutional Court for approval. Twin bombings in Iraq hit outside a Sunni mosque in Kanaan, about 47 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing an estimated 14 people, as violence persists a week ahead of provincial elections. Tunisia has recovered $29 million it says was "stolen" by ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, which was reportedly held in his wife's Lebanese bank account.

Syrian opposition activists have accused the government of committing a massacre they say was motivated by revenge. The attack was allegedly in Sanamayn, a town on the strategic highway betweenDamascus, Syria’s capital, and the southern city of Daraa. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian forces began indiscriminately shelling and shooting in the town on Wednesday, destroying at least 20 houses and killing at least 45 people. One activist claimed some victims had been "summarily executed or stabbed or burned." However, the reports have not been verified. Other violence was reported across Syria including in Homs and Damascus, and according to Syrian activists, a regime aid convoy was ambushed near the suburbs of Hama. Between 125 and 149 people are estimated to have been killed Thursday. Meanwhile, a western diplomat said there is "hard evidence" that chemical weapons were used at least once in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian government requested a U.N. investigation into alleged chemical weapons in Aleppo province in March, but the assembled team of inspectors has been denied access.

Headlines

  • The United States has slapped sanctions on an Iranian businessman, a Malaysian bank, and a network of companies for providing support to the National Iranian Oil Company.
  • An Israeli court ruled that five "Women of the Wall" detained Thursday were not disturbing the peace, as Israel works to ease tensions between Orthodox and more progressive Jewish worshippers.
  • Egypt’s Shura Council approved a revised election law on Thursday for parliamentary polls expected later this year. The law has been sent to the Supreme Constitutional Court for approval.
  • Twin bombings in Iraq hit outside a Sunni mosque in Kanaan, about 47 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing an estimated 14 people, as violence persists a week ahead of provincial elections.
  • Tunisia has recovered $29 million it says was "stolen" by ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, which was reportedly held in his wife’s Lebanese bank account.

Arguments and Analysis

Why the Iranian Nuclear Standoff Won’t End Anytime Soon (Benjamin Alter and Edward Fishman, The Atlantic)

"However disappointing, the failure of the negotiations should come as no surprise. The seasonal predictions that the Iranian standoff is nearing a climax — whether by compromise or by war — are grounded in a misreading of the situation. What many have considered a crisis is starting to look more like a balance, in which each party is more comfortable with the status quo than with any available alternative. Despite the pressure of sanctions, Tehran is more inclined to stand its ground than make a deal, and Washington prefers the present impasse to war. Only if the Islamic Republic took concrete steps to build a nuclear weapon would the United States strike Iran — a consequence Tehran understands well and will thus avoid.

Iran and the United States each profess an interest in compromise, but the fact remains that a grand bargain is improbable. That is because the Iranian regime believes it has more to gain from preserving the status quo than acquiescing to a deal that would effectively preclude it from ever possessing the ability to quickly build nuclear weapons — a position that in and of itself can deter aggression. Encircled by wealthy Sunni monarchies and U.S. allies, Iran would rather hold on to its partial nuclear deterrent than cave to Western demands.

Moreover, although international sanctions have taken a severe toll on Iran’s economy, there is little sign that they have weakened the Iranian regime. Tehran has pointed to the sanctions to justify its tightening stranglehold over the Iranian people. Meanwhile, according to a recent Gallup poll, nearly five times as many Iranians hold the United States, rather than their own leaders, as " most responsible " for the sanctions. Finally, for all its distortions of history, the Iranian regime knows that, in the past, economic self-interest has often trumped the international community’s will to maintain sanctions over time. With surging demand for energy in such countries as China and India, multilateral sanctions against oil-rich Iran are more likely to fray than intensify in the years ahead — especially if Tehran does not go all the way to building nuclear weapons."

Southern grumps: Which is worse for the north: southern secession or al-Qaeda? (The Economist)

"WALKING through the streets of Aden, you could be forgiven for thinking that the local people who want South Yemen once again to become a separate country are on the verge of success. The flag of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, as the south was styled when it was independent, festoons the walls of the decaying port city, once its capital. Since four southerners demonstrating for secession were killed by security forces on February 21st, long-standing grievances have come close to boiling point. Strikes and large-scale street protests have periodically shut down the city for days at a time.

The merger in 1990 of the south and the Yemen Arab Republic, as its northern Yemeni counterpart was known, was fraught from the start. Forces aligned with the government in Sana’a, the northern capital, decisively beat southern separatists in a civil war that broke out in 1994. But they failed to assuage the southerners’ discontent. Yemen’s central government in Sana’a was widely accused of discriminating against southerners and looting their natural resources. Since 2007, these complaints have been articulated by the Southern Movement (al-Herak in Arabic), a fractious group that wants autonomy, at the least, for the south."

–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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