The Middle East Channel

Assad tells Lebanese media Syria has received Russian missile shipment

President Bashar Al-Assad said the Syrian army holds "the balance of power" in the country’s conflict, and that Syria has received the first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. Assad spoke with Hezbollah-linked Al Manar TV in an interview set to be broadcast on Thursday and reported on by Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. There is ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

President Bashar Al-Assad said the Syrian army holds "the balance of power" in the country’s conflict, and that Syria has received the first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. Assad spoke with Hezbollah-linked Al Manar TV in an interview set to be broadcast on Thursday and reported on by Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar. There is no evidence yet that the missiles have arrived, and some military analysts believe it is a bluff. Assad claimed that the Syrian army has "scored major victories against armed rebels on the ground" and admitted to collaborating with Hezbollah. Israel has expressed concerns over the Russian weapons delivery and has threatened to prevent the advanced missile defense system from reaching the Syrian government. Assad said, "The Syrian government will not stand in the way of any Syrian groups that want to wage a war of resistance to liberate the Golan." Israel took much of Syria’s Golan Heights in the 1967 war. Meanwhile, Iran hosted an international conference on Wednesday in Tehran on Syria, working to gain a greater role in diplomatic efforts. The conference wasn’t expected to yield any policy decisions, but it attempted to show support for Iran’s inclusion in the international Syria debate as the country pushes for inclusion at peace talks that Russia and the United States are hoping to hold in Geneva in June. On Thursday, Syria’s main opposition coalition announced it won’t participate in negotiations in Geneva, with a spokesman for the group stating an "international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place." The United Nations Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday calling for the cessation of violence in the strategic Syrian town of Qusayr and condemning the use of ballistic missiles and other heavy weapons by the Syrian regime and pro-government forces in Qusayr.

Headlines

  • A wave of bombings in Iraq’s capital of Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul Thursday killed at least 16 people, bringing the death toll for May to over 500 people.
  • Qatar has joined other Gulf states in media crackdowns backing a proposal tightening controls over news websites and online commentary.
  • Israel is planning to build over 1,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem with the plans reportedly approved prior to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent unofficial settlement freeze.
  • Seven Bahraini police officers were injured in an explosion in the town of Bani Jamri, a site of frequent clashes between police and protesters.
  • Saudi Arabia has reported three more deaths from the new SARS-like coronavirus, with 49 people reportedly having contracted the virus worldwide. 

Arguments and Analysis

The Supreme Constitutional Court’s Revenge? (Nathan J. Brown. Tahrir Squared)

"The bottom line of last week’s rulings from Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) finding flaws in both the electoral law and the law of political rights was no surprise: the country’s Shura Council, tasked with full legislative authority under the country’s new constitution pending the election of a lower house of parliament, has to go back to work and write yet another set of drafts

There are many notable political effects of the twin rulings, but there is also a startling indication of unexpected boldness from the SCC-a boldness that I had expected to dissipate with the passage of the constitution at the end of last year.

Let us turn to the political effects first.

The way in which the 2012 constitution is biting the hands that wrote it-in particular with its requirements of prior review of specific laws (provisions written in order to insulate elected bodies from post-election dissolution from hyperactive courts) has already drawn attention (see my piece with Zaid al-Ali written earlier this year).  The actual effect is a bit strange.  Not only does is the effect the precise opposite of what was intended-by having the SCC review the law over and over-but it also places the court in a critical position on a final piece of the transition to Egypt’s new political order  While Egyptians have debated the correct sequence of the country’s transition process endlessly, the 2012 constitution as it has evolved has come to require that the process cannot be completed until a court has ruled that there is no constitutional flaw whatsoever in Egypt’s electoral framework.  And given the way that Egyptian elections have been run in the past-and the vagueness of much constitutional language the SCC has been asked to apply-that will take some time."

Keep Your Eye on Oman (Robert Kaplan, Stratfor)

"Oman’s diplomatic value underscores how its locational advantages are amplified by its political ones. In Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman quite simply has the best educated and among the most enlightened leaders in the Arab world. He is an absolute ruler with sophisticated liberal values. When the Arab Spring led to sustained protests in the capital of Muscat, Sohar and other Omani cities, Qaboos deftly allowed the demonstrations to proceed, then strengthened the role of the elected Shura Council, replaced older ministers with young ones, arrested some of the protest leaders and in general maneuvered in such a way that while the authorities were heavily criticized, his own prestige and power were largely unaffected. Thus, he has emerged from the Arab Spring in a comparatively stronger position vis-a-vis other leaders in the Middle East.

Oman now finds itself in the difficult but enviable position of being able to concentrate on the ultimate challenge of modern societies: building responsive and transparent institutions that ultimately make the role of the ruler himself less paramount. Of course, this is the task of societies throughout the Middle East, but few can conduct this experiment under such advantageous conditions as Oman: A country with a deeply respected ruler who is not under political siege, and who also has access to hydrocarbon revenues for at least another decade or so."

–By Jennifer T. Par
ker and Mary Casey

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